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

Student Volunteering Week 2011

Did you know that this is the 10th anniversary of Student Volunteers Week?

From Monday 21 February until Sunday 27 February there will be celebrations up and down the country recognising student volunteers in further and higher education. 

There has also been an early day motion put forward in the House of Commons so why not get your MP to support the Student Volunteering Week 2011 early day motion recognising the value of student volunteering during this time of economic instability.

As this is the European Year of Volunteering you could get your MEP to support this too.  

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Cameron 'down with the kids'

David Cameron is urging 16 year olds to register to get involved in the National Citizen Service - through Facebook.

Launched during the election campaign, it's a big part of Cameron's vision to empower communities and encourage volunteering.

The idea is that young people will be able to get involved in pilot schemes in 12 areas across the country, learning about teamwork, leadership skills and assisting community projects.

We've already seen the big impact young people can have in their communities through our online networking plaform for young people - Junction49 

Junction49 gives young people the chance to set up a community project for a cause that matters to them - with support from us of course. So, if you know a young person that wants to run their own project, tell them about it.

If they're not able to take part in the National Citizen Service due to limited places (there are plans to expand) Junction49 could be right up their street.

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Big Society: No volunteering without support

It was reassuring to hear the Prime Minister yesterday restating his party’s vision for a Big Society and “encouraging volunteering and social action so people contribute more to their community”.

What concerns us, however, is that the whole project could be seriously undermined by the current policy of cuts.

TimeBank has been helping a ‘big society’ to flourish for the past decade by inspiring and encouraging 300,000 people into volunteering. There is no doubt that the British public has a big appetite to find the time to donate their skills and expertise to worthwhile projects in their community. But as our own research shows, they need the right help, guidance and encouragement. That is what we have been successfully doing for ten years.

Government cuts are hitting everyone and we are by no means alone in bearing some of the brunt in competing for an ever decreasing pot of funding streams – it is a stark reality that faces our sector. But we are in a strong position to underpin and add real value to the Big Society agenda as we have the knowledge and expertise in helping people like you to volunteer. To carry out our work though we need a viable, stable funding base to keep the dreams of potential volunteers alive.

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I read recently about how a particularly violent area in LA has set up it's first all-American side to tour Australia. Ok, so what?

Well, these cricketers are former gangsters, homeless men and street kids. Cricket has literally turned their lives around. In fact, it was so successful that they've even lost teamates because they literally left their old lives behind and moved away from the area.

Why not get your community (and it doesn't have to be violent) to come together through sport? You will:

- get to meet your neighbours

- give everyone something to do (let's not assume it's just young people hanging around with nothing to do)

- meet someone that you wouldn't normally.

And let's not forget, it'll be fun (but only if it's not raining).

The best thing is, you don't need an organisation to set it up - just a few willing volunteers to get it started.

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Usher, what's a volunteer?

Check out Usher explaining to Elmo what a volunteer is

The definition of volunteering is always an interesting one for me especially in light of the big society.

Has Elmo hit the nail on the head or can you give me a better definition of “volunteer”?

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The fruits of my labour…

In the summer I spent a weekend with friends in Bristol and helped out on their allotment.

A few months later they visited me in London and brought with them a basket of veggies fresh from their plot, being a Londoner this was a real novelty for me. I immediately put my name down for an allotment in London and was promptly notified that there would be a 10 year waiting list!

Feeling a little put off by this I discovered Capital Growth, a partnership between London Food Link, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery's Local Food Fund. Its aim is to help Londoners transform the capital by creating 2,012 new food growing spaces by the end of 2012, there are currently 738. They offer practical help, grants, training and support to groups wanting to establish community food growing projects.

Get involved by setting up a new growing space or volunteer on an existing one. For further information to get involved and search for a plot near you click here, or check out project dirt or landshare.

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Be my... Volunteer

Love it or hate it, it's that time of year again... red roses, love hearts and fluffy teddy bears wherever you look.

If you fancy a change from splashing out on an expensive meal, or want to take your mind off singledom, I've come across a few different ideas to spread the love this year:

  • Write a letter: If you're dreading Valentine's Day because you're single, make yourself feel better by writing a letter to someone who's really alone. The Prison Fellowship is looking for volunteer letter writers to encourage prisoners who don't have anyone.
  • Find Love:  What better way to find your soulmate than doing something you're passionate about. Sign up for Thames21 First Eco Dating event on 13th February.
  • Run into the sunset: For the romantics out there, crossing the finish line hand in hand with your loved one might just be what you're looking for. Join this year's London Love Run and feel even better for raising money for the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy charity.

If you end up doing any of the above, I'd love to hear about it. So post us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Fancy a trip to Iceland? And I'm not talking supermarket!

BTCV the conservation charity have the trip of a lifetime on offer. 

If you are aged between 20 and 30 and have volunteered with BTCV in the past then you could be in with a chance to take the trip of a lifetime to volunteer in the wilds of Icelands National Parks. All travel, accommodation, food, insurance, personal support, emergency back-up, training costs and a small living allowance are provided. Get in touch by noon on 14 February to be in with a chance to head to Iceland.

Don’t worry if you don’t fit into this age category. BTCV also have a couple of fully funded three week volunteering trips for people over 50 who have volunteered with them in the past. So if you think that you would like to volunteer in Icelands national parks and are over 50 then the deadline is 15 March.

If you don't fancy leaving the UK and live in Scotland or London, you can apply for a bursary of up to £500 to cover travel, accommodation and other costs involved in a volunteering exchange. Volunteers can choose any opportunity that takes place between now and September 2012 that demonstrates one or more of the Olympic values of; Friendship, Respect, Courage, Determination, Equality and Inspiration.  Here's some more information about the wave of friendship

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