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

Check out volunteer check-ins

If you have a smartphone you may have tried some of the location-based social games that have been gaining in popularity over the past year.

If so you've probably heard of either Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places. These games or applications work by using the phone's built in GPS. You simply use one of these phone apps to search for places nearby to your current position, you find the place you are at and then you "check-in". Your check-in indicates you are at that location and you can add a comment, or tip, or maybe a photo. Your check-in can then be seen by your friends. Some of the services offer virtual badges or pins which rack up each time you check-in to a location.

Why? I hear you cry. Well, for a start it might be useful for hooking up with friends - for instance you check into a local coffee shop and post a message asking if anyone else is in the area and fancies catching up for twenty minutes over coffee.

Businesses are already catching on to this trend and offering discounts or other rewards for those that have the most check-ins at a venue. It's no wonder then that the charity world is starting to think if there could be a non-profit use, a Check-in for good. Much like the continuing developments in the related concept of micro-volunteering it's a space worth watching.

How about adding volunteering tips to a venue? Or volunteering opportunites set up so when you arrive to volunteer you check-in and gain some kind of recognition for doing it.

Do you already use a location based app? Would you use a location based volunteering app? Let me know what you think by taking part in the poll below.

Maybe you have your own exciting idea for how location based games or services could help vounteering?...

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TimeBank comes to Hammersmith’s ON FM 101.4

I was excited to make my radio debut with "View from the Top" with Tom Mallow last Sunday.

TimeBank was invited to talk about our projects and volunteering opportunities in Hammersmith. You can listen to the broadcast here. I’m on just after 6:30. Happy listening.

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A taste of spring

When I was mulling over what kind of volunteering to do over the cold Christmas holidays, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the cheerful daffodil on Marie Curie’s logo. An early taste of spring, so I decided to have a closer look…

Marie Curie provide care through nurses and doctors and other health professionals for around 29,000 cancer patients in their homes and communities. They also support the patient’s families. Not wanting to depress anyone, but with 1 in 3 of us developing cancer at some point in our lives, it’s no doubt a hugely important service – and one I really wanted to contribute to.

They’re currently recruiting 20,000 volunteers to help with their Great Daffodil Appeal in March and there are lots of different ways to get involved. You could just wear something yellow to show your support, join in collecting money in your local area, organise a collection, or for those with extra energy (and talent), Dance the Daffodil Dance! - more info on their website. Personally, I was in the mood for getting involved quite a bit, get a better idea of what goes on behind the scenes and learn some new skills while I’m at it. So I decided to apply as a Collection Organiser.

What it means is that I’ll be organising the collectors in my local area in West London, draw up a schedule of who’s collecting when and where on the day, generally making sure that the collectors have what they need, and have a good time – so I’m sure there'll be tea and cake involved and if we're lucky a bit of warm sunshine too! I'm quite excited to get started actually. I haven't volunteered for a couple of years and it feels good to be part of something again. I'll make sure to keep you posted how I get on, and if you want to join in the spring feeling have a look at their website to register as a volunteer yourself.

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C'est arrivé!

It's here - 2011 is officially the European Year of Volunteering.

We'll be joining the celebrations to highlight what volunteers do - a whopping 100 million of us across Europe - there will be films, exhibitions, media coverage and flagship projects.

But three-quarters of the European population do not do any volunteering. We want to get more people involved. Much of the detail of the events and activities for the year is yet to be planned, and we may well be coming to you for help to convince others to start volunteering. There will be no one better to explain how great volunteering can be.

But don't wait until the plans are announced - find something now.

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Calling all Foodies

I was looking for creative ways to fundraise for one of my favourite charities.

I considered doing a half marathon or even a 5K run but the prospect of training and then actually running wasn’t quite my idea of a good time.

Then I came across Dinner4Good, an easy and fun way to raise money for your favourite charity by having your friends round for dinner.

Dinner with friends…  

Now that sounds much more doable.

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Create a Big Bang

The Big Bang Fair 2011, is the UK's biggest single celebration of science and engineering for young people. Happening from 10-12 March in London, it promises to be huge. There will be lots going on - from educational shows like Brainiac Live! to workshops and other activities....who said science wasn't fun!

They need 1,500 volunteers. If you're a science or engineering professional get in touch but you don't have to be to get involved - just passionate about science. There are lots of ways you can volunteer - from welcoming people to the event or being a guide to looking after the competition entrants. You'll get full training and whilst you don't have to live in London, you will need to be able to go the event day(s).

So, get involved and make the Big Bang a big success.

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Know your QTS from your PGCE?

When I started working for an education charity a few years ago, it took me a good while to get my head around all the different terms and acronyms.

Get in touch with the TDA so you can find a TTP for your PGCE and while you're at it, check out the TES, join NASWUT, NUT or the ATL... If that's baffling to someone who's lived in this country for most of her life, imagine what a newly arrived refugee would feel like. Close to giving up I suspect.

The Refugee Council has 432 refugees registered with their Refugees into Teaching Programme who have a teaching qualification from their home country. 143 are unemployed and 87 are employed in non school related roles. If that seems like a real waste of talent to you, you could sign up to become a mentor for one of those refugees.

TimeBank is working with the The Refugee Council to recruit teachers, teaching assistants, trainee teachers, and ex-teachers who can offer voluntary mentoring support to refugee teachers in London. You can use your expertise to help them negotiate the education system and it's a great way to work on your mentoring skills too.

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Tickle your fancy

This won't help you shed a stone or quit smoking but for those of you who put 'do some volunteering' on your list of things to do in 2011, how about a nice read of Mr Tickle to ease you into things.

As part of their Evolving English exhibition, The British Library is asking people to read Roger Hargreave's Mr Tickle to populate their Voice Map. There's a science behind why they picked Mr Tickle, something to do with the range of sounds it contains when you read it out loud,  it's not just to make you smile. The Voice Map is being created as part of some research into how language works by analysing different accents and migration patterns. You can either read the story at the museum or record your voice online by clicking here where you'll find a printable copy.

After reading Mr Tickle, I'm sure you'll feel spurred onto to do many more great deeds so why not take a peek  at our get started pages for ideas of what kinds of volunteering you can do. Or, search for voluntering near you by typing your postcode in the box on the top right of your screen where you'll also be able to read feedback from people who've already done it.

 If reading the whole of Mr Tickle cover to cover is feeling like a bit of a push you have the option of reading just six words.

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