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

It's all about the games

It's getting closer.....we're a little bit nearer to the 2012 games.

This Monday saw the launch of the interviews for the Games Maker roles. Helen, our Chief Executive went along to the preview event where along with other lucky people involved in volunteering got to listen first hand to what's next. Here's what she found out:

- 100,000 people best suited to the 70,000 volunteer roles on offer will be invited to interviews

- interviews will be carried out over 14 months in centres across the UK

- over 300 people a day will go along to an event which include taking in an exhibition about Olympic and Paralympic volunteering as well as a 30 minute interview.

- 40% of applicants will be volunteering for the first time.

They're hoping to encourage the potential Games Makers to get volunteering and  be more involved in their communities before they become a Games if you're going for an interview as a Gamer Maker and reading this - Hello - we can help you find the perfect volunteering opportunity. Type in your postcode and find something near to you.

Remember, it's too late now to sign up to volunteer as a Games Maker. There's lots of other ways to volunteer - just take a look at the 'Get started' section on our website.

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Combat Stress

I went to visit Combat Stress the other day. Combat Stress is the UK's leading military charity specialising in the care of Veterans' mental health.

I knew it would be useful (it was for a work meeting) but I saw with my own eyes the amazing work they do and  found out some shocking stats:

- Of  the 180,000 personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan – there is around 7,200 probable PTSD   sufferers and around 36,000 potential sufferers of common mental health issues

- Combat Stress have 4,500 veterans getting support 

- They've seen a 72% increase in the referral rate since 2005

And I've also read recently that as many as 20,000 are in prison, on probation or parole.

Which shows a high instance of mental health problems in personnel who have seen active service in Operation Telic an Operation Herrick i.e. a prevalence of around 20% with common mental health disorders and 4% showing signs of probable PTSD.

We've partnered with Combat Stress to deliver Shoulder to Shoulder, a mentoring project which matches volunteers who have a military background to support ex-servicemen and women recovering from mental illness - helping them to adjust to life after the military.

There's a lot in the news at the moment around these issues. Hopefully, our project can play a small part in a long-term solution.

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Peer Pressure

Following the fatal stabbing of her brother Ben three years ago Brooke has campaigned on the issue of knife crime.

In her report yesterday Brooke Kinsella, who was appointed as a Government advisor last year, calls for more work with young people before they become susceptible to peer pressure.

I support Brooke's thinking here, peer pressure is possibly the most powerful driver of behaviour. That's why our platform for young people, Junction49 is peer led. Young people can come up with their own ideas for a project or activity they can develop or run that addresses issues in their lives and communities.The platform facilitates peer support as other Junction49ers can volunteer to help out on the project or provide advice. They're also supported by on-site facilitators who also provide help via telephone, twitter and facebook.

Junction49 has already supported a few knife crime related projects led by young people, and the latest is JPeace_music's The Piece or Peace idea. JPeace has created a CD, consisting of other musicians on almost each track and over 300 voices speaking out against knife and gun crime which he now wants to press and distribute for free.

The more small actions led by and directly involving young people that can be supported the greater chance of reaching out and educating young people, in a way they will trust and listen, on the foolishness of violence and the devastation knife crime causes. Small actions multiplied by a lot of people can be built into real and lasting change. And as well as the impact of the project itself, the experience of collaborating with others and shaping what you want to change develops life skills and confidence.

Are you a young person with an idea for doing good in your community or an issue you want to tackle? Or maybe you know a young person whose ideas and energy could be turned into positive action through the support and peer collaboration  of Junction49.

If that sounds like you then head over to Junction49 and start making a difference.

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Eyes on Modern Slavery

With the 2012 Olympics coming up there has been a lot of talk of the increased numbers for human trafficking.

Whilst many will come willingly, others will not, recruited by deception or coercion for exploitation before, during, and after the Games for sexual exploitation, forced labour, and other forms of abuse.

It is quite shocking to think that something that is meant to be this international celebration can bring so much injustice with it. Stop Trafficking in London is working with schools in the five Olympic boroughs to raise awareness of this and particularly modern slavery. 

To make this happen they need around 25 young volunteers to go into schools and run workshops.  All volunteers will get full training and support; they are looking to do training in mid-February, so if you’re interested sign up by emailing them and they will send you our project pack which includes all the information you need. 

To read more about the global campaign and to take action click here.

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Watch the birdie

We hear lots of talk about global warming, carbon footprints etc etc but did you know that the birds in your very own garden or local park can act as a really good monitor of environmental change?

For over 30 years now the RSPB have been asking people to literally count the birds in their garden. The information collected has revealed some sad results, like the fact that we've lost more than half our house sparrows, and three-quarters of our starlings. 

So why not get outside this weekend for the Big Garden Birdwatch.  All you need is a pen and a piece of paper and one hour of your time spent either in your garden or in a local green space on either Saturday 29 or Sunday 30 January 2011. 

Then you watch the birds and write down the highest number of each bird species that you see.  Dont worry you won't get your wagtails mixed up with your Jackdaws because there is a very handy bird ID sheet on the RSPB website.

You can also ask questions, and share your tips for a brilliant birdwatch on their Big Garden Birdwatch online community group.

If you are a teacher or youth leader you could get the whole class to take part in the Big Schools' Birdwatch which runs between 24 January to 4 February 2011.

Go on register now and get the whole family outside.

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Strictly Daffodil

I’m really missing my weekly fix of glitter and sparkle otherwise known as Strictly Come Dancing

So you can imagine my delight when I found out that I can recreate it here in TimeBank Towers by having a Daffodil Dance.

You may have recently read my colleagues blog about the Daffodil Appeal which is a Marie Curie fundraising appeal that has been running for many years now.  Marie Curie provides care for terminally ill cancer patients and funds scientists who are at the forefront of cancer research.  Here is a strictly fun way to get involved and help out this fantastic cause.

Dust off your dancing shoes and sign up for the Daffodil Dance and Marie Curie will send you a pack with choreographed dance routines, fundraising ideas and tips on how to make your event a success. There are five routines to choose from all from top choreographers:

Irish Dancing, Line Dancing, Street Dancing, Salsa and not forgetting Ballroom.

Once you've decided on a style you can get your pals to sponsor you and invite them to a performance of your routine any time in March.

I've registered and I cannot wait - I hope my colleagues will be as excited as I am.

As Brucy says Keeeeeeeeeeeeep Dancing.

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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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