An informal conversation and guide to the sometimes confusing world of volunteering.

Banking on volunteer mentors

There has been no shortage of interest from volunteers to take part in Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine since the mentoring project started last June. The project matches veterans and families living in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh with a mentor who provides one to one support to help in their transition to civilian life. 

Mentors have been recruited through various methods, including volunteer websites, colleges and universities, partner agencies, news articles, Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine’s online application and word of mouth. We had a really good day recruiting at Volunteer Edinburgh’s Recruitment fair. Jody, one of our volunteer mentors (pictured above) helped out for the day and was fantastic in getting people interested in volunteering.

Volunteers go through a rigorous recruitment process including an induction. They provide two referees, join Disclosure Scotland's Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme and complete mentor training. 

Here’s what volunteers have said:

“I’m feeling very confident”

“I’m aware of the issues veterans face”

“I found the case studies and personal experiences of veterans most interesting”

“The videos linked theory to real life”

TimeBank now has a good bank of fully trained mentors ready to be matched with a veteran or family member. Mentors come from a variety of backgrounds. Their ages range from 20 to 60 and they are male, female, ex-military, families of veterans and from civilian life.

If you are a veteran or family member and find it difficult to move on, mentors can:

  • Talk with you on the phone
  • Meet with you for a chat
  • Be there to listen
  • Give you one to one support, assistance or guidance
  • Help you focus on setting goals in the aim to move on

If you are an ex-serviceman, woman or family living in or around Glasgow or Edinburgh and would like the support of a mentor, or would like to find out more, we are here to help.

You can read more about the project here, call me on:0141 814 4510 or 07437 437 867 or

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What a rewarding journey!

Hello, my name is Amy. I’m a student in the first year of my English Language and Linguistics BA (Hons) Degree at The University of Wolverhampton - and I wanted to tell you about the rewarding experience of volunteering on TimeBank's Talking Together project. 

I am a British Bangladeshi born and bred and I am very proud of my heritage. I have always been passionate about English Language as a subject and feel that being able to speak English plays a crucial part in our daily lives.

I was intrigued to learn about the barriers to second language acquisition, so I signed up as an English Language Mentor on TimeBank’s Talking Together project.  I would like to help people from ethnic minorities gain confidence in using English in various contexts. My motivation to take part  is that being a Bangladeshi myself,  I would like to branch out and help those from my community and other ethnicities to progress with their English and be able to integrate with the wider society, whilst also gaining independence to fulfil a range of tasks outside of the home.               


For my first volunteering trip, my colleagues and I took a group of students and ventured out to Moor Street Station. The journey was just four minutes from the starting point to the City Centre, yet most of the ladies didn’t know that this option of travel was accessible to them.

They were very nervous as many had not gone on a train before.  However as the day progressed, they learnt about departure and arrival times as well as the 24 hour clock system in order to read train timetables.  They also took the opportunity of asking the gentleman at the ticket office about train times, journey lengths, ticket types and prices. They were initially hesitant but once they did they were very proud of what they had achieved by simply asking a few questions. This really helped to build their confidence.

The Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum was the main attraction of the day. The students were able to learn about opening and closing times, exhibition costs (if applicable) and describing paintings and sculptures. The trip really helped to expand their vocabulary and learn new skills. And they thoroughly enjoyed their experience.

We later had lunch and they were able to order their own meals, talking in English with the staff. Their confidence had improved vastly compared to the beginning of the day. A few of the ladies said they would try the journey themselves again now they knew what to do.

Something that we take for granted like boarding a train is so invaluable to these learners – and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that I played a part in their learning and made a difference to their lives.  That is the biggest reward you could have as a volunteer.

If you'd like to know more about volunteering on Talking Together, take a look here.

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Employee volunteering isn't just for Christmas!

Like last year, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit shown by the employee volunteers I had the pleasure of working with over Christmas. The volunteers came from a range of companies; from global fashion brands to chemicals and marketing. They may have all come from different backgrounds and sectors but what united them was their openness to genuinely giving something back to the communities where they live and work.

This year was the first time we worked with the company City Index to get its employees volunteering.  City Index employees volunteered at four different Anchor care homes across five sessions of volunteering in London. Anchor is the largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for the over-55s in England. The City Index volunteers did a fantastic job interacting with the residents through activities such as Christmas card making and baking, as well as singing a few Christmas carols. The volunteers created a buzz around the homes, the residents loved seeing new faces, and the Anchor staff appreciated the support of volunteers to engage with the residents. It was an absolute pleasure working with the volunteers, and the Anchor staff are incredibly passionate about their work. It was inspiring to see all the fantastic work they do.

TimeBank also worked with a global fashion brand to help create sensory toys to be used by Blind Children UK (part of Guide Dogs), in their work with blind and partially sighted children. The sensory toys, such as sensory boards and umbrellas, all have different textures and materials to encourage stimulation and confidence for the children the charity works with. The employees from the company amazed us with their creative flair - in a matter of hours they had turned ordinary materials like brushes and make up bags into magical toys that will bring joy to lots of children and families across the country. The staff from Blind Children UK were so excited by the results they couldn’t wait to use them at their sessions later that day.

Once again, I was amazed by the efforts of employee volunteers to offer not only their time, but also their skills and experience to help others at Christmas. For TimeBank, it is not only a pleasure to work with the volunteers, but it is also rewarding to help the community partners we work with find such kind and talented volunteers.

But volunteering isn’t just for Christmas - charities need help all year round. The New Year is the perfect time of year to reflect on what we have and to help those less fortunate; it’s a perfect time to volunteer! There are a whole range of opportunities to get your employees volunteering this year - take a look at our Employee Volunteering pages to see how we can help.

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The impact that volunteering has on your own life ...

A lady of leisure, I was lingering between applying for jobs and attending community training events.

I needed something to challenge my over-active mind, something to get my teeth into and that was the moment I came across Talking Together, a TimeBank English Speaking programme.

I was instantly attracted by this practical teaching course, and of course, I had my doubts - oh no, not with Time Bank - in my own ability and confidence.

“How on earth will I teach a class of women, English?” I fretted.

“Where will I begin, when the ladies stare at me with eager eyes and empty note pads?”

Needless to say, I was wrought with self-doubt and worry. However it soon faded away when I met smiley Elizabeth –a Talking Together trainer- along with a group of eager volunteers.

Step aside boring, tepid training session and say hello to interactive, friendly and refreshing training.

I had a blast over the three days training sessions and made some great friends that left me in fits of laughter; thawing my worries and fears. We all were in the same boat - volunteer learners.

Soon after training I was introduced to staff at Betram Children’s Centre where I worked alongside another trainer. We worked together and complemented each other with our ideas, resources and teaching style. He came from a teaching background, me-not so.

But that’s the buzz of Talking Together; you don’t need to have teaching experience to help others to speak! Yes! It’s amazing.

They provide you with a curriculum - the motherboard – and you inject your personality and tailor the class to the students’ ability and hey presto, they will be eating out of your hand or like my class, laughing at my silly jokes.

Over the 12 weeks I made friends with my class and the beautiful women came out of their shells and participated in class activities. They learn practical talking skills which they put to use in everyday life.

Shanaz (not her real name), who I am starting to gently fall in love with, laughs with modesty every time she attempts to speak in front of the class. On my last day, she bought a fresh batch of home cooked pakoras to our leaving party, simply delish!

In conclusion, over the 12 weeks, not only did it boost my students’ confidence, but my own. I could teach!

Now that looks impressive on my CV. A few ladies gained confidence to apply for ESOL courses, others will be mentored and the journey has only begun!

Me? Well, who knows … where there is a challenge, a new experience, there I am.

Therefore lady of leisure, I am not, I’m a lady who teaches the magnificent-English language and helps other women get so much more out of their lives.

Samina Bibi……signing off

If you'd like to get involved in our Talking Together project in Birmingham and Leicester, take a look here.

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A fabulous year for volunteering!

I always sit down at this time and do a bit of a review of the year – looking through the 2014 diary it utterly astounds me just how much we have packed into 12 months and how excited we are to take this forward into the New Year!


January saw the launch of our new volunteer led English Language project in Birmingham and Leicester – it also saw us move into a new office in Birmingham and increase our staff team there by another six people. Of course that meant all the usual things like setting up IT and financial processes and induction but it also meant we had a whole new group of TimeBank staff to learn from and work with as we grew our work. I get to go to our Birmingham office much more often too, which is great fun!

Meanwhile in London we were welcoming a slightly more unusual new staff member in Mason our trainee guide dog! He came to the office every day as part of his training and was an amazing volunteering opportunity for one of our team. 


By March we’d started planning our annual staff away day with the creative team at Happen and preparing our next 18 month business plan as we moved towards year end. Our employee volunteering was really starting to develop, as you can see from this video from our friends at Southerly about their volunteering at a local school. And our Shoulder to Shoulder Families project was launched in Birmingham.

In April we heard the fantastic news that the Forces in Mind Trust and the Henry Smith Charity would fund our Shoulder to Shoulder project in Scotland with our partners Erskine, so that meant lots of time on trains to Scotland to get the new project up and running. 


In May for the second year running the company CEB asked TimeBank to run its global impact day in the UK by organising volunteering opportunities for 300 staff on Give and Gain Day. I went round five of the six projects in London and was astonished at just how much impact one staff team could have in one day with the right opportunities.

In the summer we started working with Pro-bono Economics to try to put a value on the incredible work our Carers Together project is doing in partnership with Carers UK. More flippantly we turned our training room into a big screen to watch some of the World Cup – hmm not sure that England got the memo to deliver like TimeBank!!  Inevitably projects come to an end as Engage, which works with unemployed young people, did in June but like a phoenix rising from the ashes we are fortunate to have secured funding to launch a new iteration in January so look out for another fabulous job being advertised at TimeBank.

In the summer I took time out to go up to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, seeing first-hand how the Clyde-siders replicated the Gamesmakers in London – showing volunteering at the forefront of a big national event once again – and of course bumped into one of our very own trustees Lorna who was volunteering her time. Like TimeBank staff our trustees really do walk the talk! 


By the autumn it was back to business as usual, delivering our amazing projects, fundraising for new ones and delivering impactful employee volunteering opportunities.  November took me to the Windsor Leadership Trust for a week which utterly blew me away as you can read in my blog here – trust me you are never too senior to learn and develop new skills and you should never underestimate the power of taking time out to think.

Just last week the volunteering world saw the re-launch of the volunteering site do-it. I was lucky enough to be on the panel discussing the value of social media at the launch and saw the amazing new site that really will support people more easily into volunteering opportunities – anything that gets more people volunteering is a good thing as far as we’re concerned!


And so full circle we moved offices, but this time in London!  As our lease came to an end we waved goodbye to Moorgate and hello to Kings Cross, moving into a great space with our friends at the YMCA. I’ll be honest it wasn’t the greatest time of the year to move but we’ve done it and come January 5  we’ll be operating from our new home and hope very much that you’ll come and see us.

Meanwhile an absolutely heartfelt and huge thank you goes out to all of our volunteers and supporters, our trustees and our staff team – they have been fabulous this year and I hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. 

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We're moving!

Well, our lease at Royal London House in Finsbury Square has come to an end after four years and we’re off to new offices at TimeBank, One KX, 120 Cromer Street, London WC1H 8BS.

You’ll still be able to reach us at our usual email addresses and phone numbers but do bear with us while we make the move as there may be a little disruption. Our Birmingham and Scotland addresses remain the same and we’ll be settled in to our new London premises from January 5.

We’re really excited about making the move to King’s Cross. 2014 has been a fantastic year for us (look out for my blog later this week) and we’re looking forward to growing our volunteer mentoring projects from our new home.

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Laughter and games - and the chance to learn about British life

Richard is a volunteer on our Talking Together project, which offers informal language training and mentoring to long-term UK residents who have little or no knowledge of English. He says the project is opening doors and providing new experiences which all contribute to community integration.

I really enjoyed my volunteer teaching experience with TimeBank and I established a bond I did not expect with the ladies I taught. So I was delighted when an educational visit for the students was suggested.

I really believed that an outing a few months after the classes had ended would show us how far they had come and whether the English they had learnt had stuck.

As with most charities, time and resources are hard come by, so I volunteered to organise the trip.  It really was no bother and it enabled me to learn many skills I can use in my future charity career such as budgeting, creating formal itineraries and hunting down discounts!

On the big day we all met up – including the Golden Hillock Children’s Centre's co-ordinator Nazia – to take the train for the Thinktank science museum in Birmingham. Most of the class were there and their children too, which made the venture even more special.

At the station we found to our surprise none of the students had EVER ridden a train before! Yet another new experience for the women, and they’d evidently prepared for it with their children dressed in Thomas the Tank engine clothes. I never thought a four minute train journey could have so much meaning.

The Thinktank proved to be a spectacular choice for our trip, providing entertainment and education for students, teachers and children alike. Watching the students explore the science gardens puzzles with their children was a particular highlight for me as it was fascinating to see them figure out the English instructions combined with natural human curiosity.

Another shining moment was the fun we had with an interactive robot. By selecting different phrases for the robot to say, the women could show off their command of English by replying, in between the laughter of course.


Other notable parts of the day included a planetarium show and a model village children’s area, as well as walking into the city centre (another first for one of the students) for something to eat. The Thinktank was not only about fun and games, it also had loads of historical artefacts which illustrated life in Birmingham and England. I saw this as an extra bonus in helping them integrate into the community by understanding and sharing local history.  

All in all, the trip was a fantastic conclusion to three months of teaching. Seeing the women’s confidence and use of English confirmed the efforts of all involved in the TimeBank scheme. Saying farewell at the station I swelled with happiness on hearing how they were all enrolled on college ESOL courses to continue their learning and were thoroughly enjoying it. It was lovely to see that the TimeBank classes not only sparked my career into teaching but also these women into learning.  

If you'd like to know more about our Talking Together project, take a look here

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Can you teach a leader to lead?

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that those around me may consider me a tad cynical and that is certainly the way I started last week! 

The thing about courses in my experience is that they’re a bit overrated – those who speak on courses spiel textbook and people who go on courses all the time tend to regurgitate them (usually badly) – and when it comes to leadership in my view it’s a bit more complicated than that.

So why did I find myself on the emerging leaders programme at the Windsor Leadership Trust last week then? Lots of reasons. The first is that I was lucky enough to have been nominated to do so and because I work for a small voluntary organisation I was offered part of the cost as a bursary so it was affordable. Before I went I talked to several people for whom I have an enormous respect who had either done it or heard of it and who told me I should do everything I could to make sure I attended. Plus it was in Windsor Castle and perhaps most importantly of all I haven’t invested any time in me for a long time and sometimes having an opportunity to force yourself into some head space is vital.

So last Monday I walked up the hill trudging my suitcase behind into the gates of Windsor Castle to St George's House. It’s a fairly intimidating thing to do, committing to a week-long residential course, full not only of complete strangers but of leaders from a cross section of society. That first afternoon I remained a bit unsure – but then I realised that the people in my ‘syndicate’ were not only incredibly interesting and had a whole other perspective to bring to the party but also shared my uncertainty, so over a gin and tonic that evening I was fairly sure the week was going to be a success.

The extent of that success is of course yet to be seen – but I have been musing ever since what it was that changed my attitude from ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ to ‘this was probably the most inspiring week of my professional life’? In other words what makes the Windsor course unique.  

  • The mix of sectors – the problems and outcomes you face in  the police, the military, commercial business, the NHS, the church, local government or the charity sector may be different but the leadership challenges are fundamentally the same.
  • They don’t ram text books down your throat – you learn from one another and from the speakers who give their time to share different perspectives on their leadership journey. You have free reign to question and challenge them.
  • It’s intense but there’s time to think – whether that’s in the bar or over lunch or back in your room or taking a stroll around the castle grounds – you  are perpetually reflecting on what you’ve just heard and what it means for you, your style of leadership, your organisation or simply the way you appear to others.
  • It’s in the grounds of Windsor Castle which in itself makes it more of a retreat - your surroundings constantly remind you of how privileged you are to be there.  Late one afternoon in the manner of schoolchildren during a break in the programme we sneaked out to the pub and as we left I noticed the Union flag flying over the Castle. When we returned it was the Royal Standard – so as we had mused over a pint the Queen had rocked up to her home. It's that slightly surreal element that makes it so special.
  • The people – the chair, facilitators, speakers, guests, staff team and my fellow students – utterly blew me away with their generosity of time and insight, of ensuring everything that we did was right for us, not an imposed structure of one size fits all.
  • The humour. I can honestly say that I haven’t  laughed so much in a long time.

In essence this last week took me out of myself – made me think about every decision I have made or will make and I hope will make me a better, more considerate, more thoughtful, more successful leader in my sector with the support of my peers not just in the charity sector but across society and surely that can only be a good thing.  

The Trust’s  strapline: “Inspire, discover, transform” pretty much sums it up for me. Check it out, it’s properly awesome:

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