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

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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Homemade lemon drizzle cake might just do it for me

There are thousands of ways to volunteer - how do you choose what to do?

We think one of the best ways is to read what other people say. Real reviews from people who volunteer can give you the inside story on what it's really like.

Take these three volunteers with Contact the Elderly:

"I love driving for Contact the Elderly and have been doing so for over 17 years, first in London and now in S Wales. We all have a lot of fun and there is real affection and friendship amongst the group. It makes such a difference to our guests, and one lady said to us last time that what she loves most about our outings is that she doesn't feel old - we're all just a group of friends having fun together and age becomes irrelevant. I find I really look forward to it each month too!"

"The ladies I take to each monthly tea party get such a boost from it - they enjoy the company and the outing, and they always look forward to them. I have been volunteering for 2 years now for Contact the Elderly, and I wouldn't stop!"

"It is the best thing I have ever volunteered for. I have been involved for three years, I get more out than I put in. The people in my group, drivers hosts and guests have a wonderful time. We all get on so well, there's so much fun and laughter. The downside is that for people like me who have a healthy appetite there's the temptation to overeat, especially when it's all homemade. 'Do have another slice of lemon drizzle cake.' Even though you know you shouldn't you can hear yourself saying 'I don't mind if I do.'

So, go on, say 'I do' to Contact the Elderly and if you've already volunteered - please leave your own review here.

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Only 2 days left

Don't miss the chance to volunteer during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.  If you want to be a London Ambassador in 2012 complete your registration form by 7 January 2011

London Ambassadors will welcome visitors from all over the world to London during the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. 

You will be given all the training and help needed to make sure you are ready to welcome the world to London.  In return you will get free travel within zones 1 - 6 for each day you volunteer, a uniform that you can keep, food and refreshments during your shift plus the opportunity to have access to competitions with very special prizes that only the London Ambassadors can enter.

If you think you would make a great London Ambassador, you can register now or take a look at our day in the life walkthrough to find out what sort of things you'll be doing

So if you think this is for you sign up before its too late

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