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


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That's how many people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. That number doesn't even include the husbands, sons, mums (the list goes on) who are affected by their loved ones news. Unfortunately, nearly everyone you speak to knows someone who's had breast cancer or the big C in one form or another - me included.

There are ways to do your bit. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and fundraising is obviously essential to support charities like Breast Cancer Care and Breakthrough Breast Cancer do the amazing work they do.

However, if you're looking for a fantastic way to volunteer, how about this? If you're a qualified beautician (or know someone who is) Look Good Feel Better need volunteers. For a few afternoons a year you will help run beauty workshops for women who have undergone invasive and appearance changing cancer treatments. Find out more about getting involved.

I wish I were a beautician.

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Volunteering away from home

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Changes to the immigration system in 2008 may be having an impact on volunteers coming into the UK.

Many of us know someone who's volunteered abroad on their gap year or as part of a career break or extended holiday.

But did you know that lots of people come here to the UK to volunteer too? Volunteering England is the national development agency for volunteering and supports, enables and celebrates volunteering. I work for Volunteering England's policy and information team and we are looking at the impact these changes may have had on volunteers coming into the UK.

If you've come to the UK to volunteer from outside the EU or EEA, or know someone who has, please take a couple of minutes to let me know how you found out about getting the right visa and what the experience was like. You can do this through this online survey and you can take part anonymously.

Details from the survey will help me find out how the system works for individuals, and whether visas are actually affecting volunteering. The survey should only take a few minutes of your time and if you want to find out more about volunteering abroad, take at look at our website

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Know a great volunteer?

We let you know recently about the vinspired national awards - where you can nominate an outstanding young volunteer for one of thier eight awards.

Just to let you know they've extended the deadline to Wednesday 6 October. So go on, now you''ve got an extra six days to nominate there's no excuse not to!

Go to their website or call 0800 089 9000 to request a paper form.

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Is it really a fair cop guv?

The Metropolitan police is the UK's biggest force and they, like the rest of us are having to think how they can save money. 

The governments spending review will reveal all on October 20th, and the Home Office which is the government department responsible for funding the police has to make cuts.

One of the ideas is that anyone intending to join the police would have to volunteer as a volunteer special constable for 18 months. 

If people intending to become police officers are forced to volunteer as special constables - perhaps its time for all police forces to stop using the word volunteer. 

I know that this is quite a unique role unlike those of most volunteers, as you have a duty to the crown once you wear the uniform. But let's stops bandying the word around, after all volunteering should be independently chosen and freely given and volunteers should complement and not be doing the job of paid staff.

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LGBT Festivities

88 LGBT flag.jpgGFEST- Gaywise Festival is an initiative of Wise Thoughts arts charity and is the UK's only dedicated London based cross-arts fesitval. It celebrates and champions the work of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) artisits. It's taking place from 8 - 12 November at various venues across London and this is your chance to be part of it. 

The festival has three main strands: short film screenings, performances and a visual arts exhibition combined with a range of workshops, talks and debates.

You could volunteer as an art show invigilator, supervising and monitoring access to the gallery space, a canvasser/show usher, engaging with audiences and ensuring they have an enjoyable experience at festival events or as a publicity distibutor to help promote GFEST - Gaywise FESTival 2010 events and activities.

If you'd like to volunteer, submit your details via this online application

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Lone surfing

The number of older people living on their own who use the internet has really grown over the last 10 years.

In 2000, just 11% of single pensioners had internet access at home - now almost 40% are online.

I think it's fantastic. No need to pop out for a pint of milk. Gone are the days of going to your bank to pay a bill. For older people without family or friends nearby they don't have to feel alone anymore. Ok, it's no substitution for human contact but lets face it, it helps.

One of our mentoring projects, Digitall, has been helping all sorts of people (including older people) to get to grips with computers and the internet. Young volunteer Hema supported the young at heart Penny. Penny is now on Facebook. She emails her family over in Canada and has become 'cool grandma' to her grandkids. Brilliant eh? Take a look at our film about them here

So, if you know an older person who lives alone, give them a hand to get surfing so they're not so alone anymore.

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Make a will, make a difference

If you're one of the 60% of adults who haven't made a will - or if you need yours updated - do it in November.

During November, solicitors across the country are giving up their time and using their professional skills to raise money through Will Aid.


Solicitors volunteer to write wills for free, and you donate what would have been the fee to charity. Don't wait until November, find a participating solicitor near you and make that appointment now. You'll be supporting volunteers, sorting out your life and raising money for charity.

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itea & biscuits

Did you know that its itea and biscuits week?

Age UK are running taster sessions and events all across the UK encouraging older people take a look at the way digital technologies can transform their lives for the better.  A friend of mine who has adopted London as her new home told me recently that the happiness of her parents who live in New Zealand has increased ten fold since they have learned how to use skype and can see and speak to their grandchildren on a regular basis.

These sessions are not just about encouraging people to get online but they are also informing older people about a huge variety of digital technologies eg mobile phones and digital cameras. Age UK has a huge and varied list of volunteering opportunities why not take a look at what's available in your area.

If you live in London, TimeBank also runs digital inclusion programmes like Digitall and Futures Together so why not take a look and see if they might interest you?

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