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


Well, you've got one week before applications close to be a volunteer at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

And you've got one month to put in an application to 'donate yourself' to a local charity through Vodafone's World of Difference programme. If you're one of the lucky 500 chosen, you'll get to spend two months with the charity and get some money to do it too. Placements will start in March 2011.

If you can't wait until then to start volunteering, why not find something now by popping in your postcode in the search box at the top right hand corner of the page.

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Cuts Cuts Cuts...

"Carnage on Axe Wednesday", "The Axe has Fallen". Just two of the dramatically depressing headlines about the spending review announcement this week.

Well here at sunny TimeBank towers I'm trying desperately to put a more cheery note on things. And I think I may have found it.


We've talked before about the power of mentoring and I truly believe that it could step in and save some of the day - in this case for smaller charities and for teachers too.

  • Leaders Together is our mentoring project where senior professionals lend their skills and expertise to help and support leaders of smaller charities that will find themselves in even greater need as a result of sector cuts. We've recently launched and are still looking for more mentors and leaders that need a mentor - training starts mid-November for mentors and early December for small charity leaders.
  • We're working with the Refugee Council to recruit and match mentors as part of the wider national Refugees into Teaching project which supports refugee teachers to become a teacher in the UK. A huge number of refugees have teaching skills and qualifications from their home country that are difficult to transfer in the UK. Cuts to the education sector will undoubtedly result in this being double as hard. So if you're a qualified teacher or have knowledge of the UK teaching profession, sign up as a mentor to help and support refugees to access the advice, training, work placements and ultimately the teaching career they dream of.
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On a mission

If you've been reading this blog you'll know I'm on a mission this month to get the word out about Breast Cancer Awareness month.

My search for volunteering makes me realise how many great charities are out there fighting the cause. This time I'm bringing you The Genesis Appeal who are the only UK charity entirely dedicated to preventing breast cancer.

So, how can you volunteer? If you're lucky enough to live near Manchester (where their main office is based), you can be the welcoming face on their helpdesk, run their merchandise stall, help to run an event, volunteer in their coffee shop or do a spot of gardening. The list is endless.

If you're a bit busy now but want to plan ahead - how about getting involved with Walk The Walk's Moonwalks next year? You can get involved from everything being a route marshal, to selling walking gear and even giving the walkers a massage or tattoo afterwards.

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Get online

This week is Get Online week - helping people to get to grips with computers and the internet.

A couple of our projects here at TimeBank do just that and Futures Together in particular is looking for volunteer mentors to help get people online.

Futures Together supports older Muslim women with computer and language skills and is looking for young Muslim women aged 18-35 to be mentors. It's a London based project and we'll give you all the training and ongoing support you need. Find out how to become a mentor.

Watch our films to find out more about how we're tackling digital inclusion.

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How is the Big Society going to work in times of cuts?

It's the question on a lot of people's minds, especially with the spending review announcement on Wednesday.

So we went straight to the source and asked the people you'd most expect to be 'being' the Big Society already...volunteers.

Over 1,500 volunteers or people wanting to volunteer responded to our survey when we asked them what they thought of the Big Society and what would get more people volunteering. Here's what they said...

  • 89% like one or more of The Big Society plans
  • But 70% remain confused or cynical
  • 73% want volunteering to be made easier
  • Employers giving staff time off to volunteer is the top thing they think will encourage more volunteering
  • Training community organisers came top of the list of Big Society plans that appealed the most
  • But out of those less than half want to be trained as a community organiser themselves.

Here's what the BBC made of our survey today. And here's the full story

What do you think? Could you, would you be one of Cameron's 5,000 community organisers? If your employer gave you time off to volunteer would that really spur you on to do more volunteering?

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Mobile Volunteering

We are in the process of planning a mobile phone application that allows you to use our volunteering opportunity rating and feedback tool on the go.

Yes it's a bit of a long name! Until we come up with a better one I'm going to call it the volurater.

I submitted our plans to Orange's website - it's a community where ideas are submitted for phone apps that do good. Orange will take the top ideas and get them made into actual apps. Where apps are already started or in development thay have said they will help promote the top ten with the most votes.

Our volurater is currently in the top ten!

Do you think it is a good idea?

If you do why not go to Opportunity Search and Rating and give us your vote?

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Eat, Pray, Love, Volunteer

Do you ever feel like you can get really into something so much so that it starts to affect everything that you do?!

Well that's what happened to me when I started reading a really great book, Eat, Pray, Love. And yes, exactly my point, it's now been turned into a film starring Julia Roberts. Its all about a middle aged (well 37 year old) woman who decided to let loose and be a free spirited traveller after going through a painful divorce.

Then the other week it was all over the papers that the midlife crisis is now hitting people as young as their thirties!

Now I'm not saying I'm going through a mid-life-crisis, (oh grow up Heidi!) but its definitely got me thinking about how modern life worries about money, work and relationships can really take their toll.

But you don't have to go to Italy, Bali and India to get through it. Here's where volunteering comes in.

Volunteering can really enhance your life and it could be just what you need to get out of the routine that you've been stuck in for the last 20 years or so. A lot of people at this age also realise the importance of giving back to society - so why not act on it? It doesn't have to be hard and you can fit lots of types of roles in amongst yoga, chai teas and your new found love of sports cars!

Or if you want to volunteer to help people who are experiencing a real mid life crisis there are a number of charities that help. Carers UK, Womens Health Concern and Relate are all charities that offer support to people to cope and move on from a mid-life crisis.

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Pink, pink to make everyone think

Last week I mentioned a great way to do your bit for Breast Cancer Awareness month, so on that theme, here's another. Breast Cancer Campaign, fund innovative world-class research to find out how breast cancer develops. They want to improve diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure.

Get involved by becoming a volunteer speaker You'll get out and about and help to raise awareness of Campaign's vital work. Or, if you'd rather volunteer from the comfort of your own home, become an online volunteer.

There are lots of other ways to support Campaign's work - find out how you can get tickled pink.

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