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

Checking common sense?

Criminal Record Checks, or CRBs as they're lovingly referred to, often provoke heated debate amongst volunteers.

This is what two volunteers said recently, when we asked for your views on the Big Society:

‘I have refused to do certain things as they are associated with those awful CRB clearances. Why do I have to prove that I am not a criminal...disgusting!'

‘Sort out the CRB mess. Should only be one check with CRB for a time period and all organisations accept that rather than doing their own.’

At the moment, if you want to volunteer with children or vulnerable adults you will probably need to have one of these background checks. Some people find them off-putting, they do cause a delay to you starting to volunteer, but they do protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse.

The Government has now confirmed that they will be reviewing the Vetting and Barring Scheme to make sure they are scaled back to 'common sense levels'.

Has the pendulum really swung too far? Are there too many checks on people who want to volunteer?

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I need a man

And no this is isn't a plea to find my future husband (although feel free to get in touch Prince William). I need to recruit male volunteers for our Back to Life project, where we match young adults recovering from mental health issues with a volunteer mentor.

We currently have people who would like a mentor and would really benefit from it but don't have enough mentors at the minute to match them with.

Helping someone write their CV or simply meeting for a coffee once a week can make a real difference to someone's life. So if you're 18-35, male and can give up five hours a month then we'd love to hear from you. And we'll give you all the training and support you need. Unfortunately the project is just in South London for the timebeing so you'll need to be able to get there to take part. 

Sign up online or call 0845 601 4008.

ps. Don't worry - if you'd like to volunteer but this isn't the opportunity for you then you can search for volunteering near you by typing your postcode in the box on the top right of this page.

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Teachers as mentors

So many newcomers to this country have amazing skills and want to use those skills to start a new life here.

Unfortunately some people find it hard to know where to begin to convert their qualifications and may end up never using them. I feel that as a result we are poorer because of this. 

Refugees into Teaching is a programme that provides support and advice to teachers from a refugee background who want to teach in the UK.  

So if you are  a UK qualified teacher, a teaching assistant or a teacher trainer in either primary or secondary education then here is your chance to be a mentor.  

You will be trained and matched and given lots of support and guidance. You'll be expected to meet up once a fortnight over a three month period.

If this idea appeals to you please get register your interest here. If you know of a teacher who might be interested - please pass this on. If you would like a bit more information please feel free to get in touch by emailing the project manager Taku and he can give you all the details.

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Celebrating Black History in October

There are over 1,500 events being held around the country many of which rely on voluntary efforts for their success. Visit the Black History Month website to look at events you can attend or better yet volunteer at! If you don't find something you want to get involved in on the website do get in touch with the team as there may be other opportunities available that are not advertised.

If you live in London and would like something more specific The Pepper Pot Day Centre in West London is always looking for volunteers to support their work. There are a variety of opportunities from office administration, practical activities, organising trips, care services and catering (meal preparation and food serving) to fund-raising. The Pepper Pot Day Centre provides services for active and disabled older people from the African and Caribbean community- to help them live independently in their own homes.

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Not everyone loves pink

It's not often I get on my soap box but right now I'm tapping away extremely hard on my poor keyboard a little disgruntled.

Why? Last week I read two articles in different newspapers (but by the same person actually) and they're still irritating me. The jist of the articles are that Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is getting too much publicity over other cancers, that it's scaremongering and, that with all the lovely pink things you can buy it even makes it the 'fun' cancer.

True enough it's massive - everything is pink at the moment. BUT, can a good cause ever have too much publicity? It's a marketing campaign (the 'fun' stuff is there because it appeals to that particular audience). Couldn't other cancer charities club together and have a campaign month? Perhaps that's what the writer is getting at.

In an ideal world every organisation that's fighting its cause would have equal publicity but it often comes down to who shouts the loudest. And you too can shout loud (or just be a crucial part of a cause) by volunteering.

Come on....I had to get volunteering in here somehow didn't I?

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We're in 8th place

The World Giving Index has recently been published by Charities Aid Foundation.

The report highlights that nations give in different ways and that volunteering as a way of giving falls behind both giving money as well as helping a stranger, the two other ways highlighted as “giving”. Incidence of volunteering lies in a range from 2% in Cambodia to 61% in Turkmenistan.

The UK stands in 8th place out of 153 (not bad!) with 73% giving money, 58% helping a stranger and 29% volunteering.

Have a look at the index here. Are you surprised by some of the countries who are in the top ranking positions?

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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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