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

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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How do you know what volunteering's really like?

I just spotted what someone left on our website about volunteering with CHICKS (Country Holidays for Inner City Kids) and it made me want to do it straight away.

"Definitely one of the best volunteering experiences I've ever been a part of. Although you may feel shattered by the end of the week, it is completely worth it especially when you see just how much the kids develop and get out of their week away. The facilities available are fantastic and the staff are brilliant. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone and everyone."

So, if you've ever volunteered, share your insights and help others work out if it's for them. Rate your volunteering here

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Shoulder to Shoulder

The government this week unveiled new measures to improve the care for troops experiencing mental health problems, including a free 24-hour helpline and more dedicated nurses.

These new services came as a result of reforms recommended by a review published last month. The review also calls for better health screening and new networks of voluntary support. And here at TimeBank we're ahead of the game as we'll soon be launching our latest mentoring project - matching ex-service personnel experiencing mental health issues with volunteer mentors. Shoulder to Shoulder will be launching next month, so watch this space!

You can't sign up to volunteer yet but we're looking for a Project Coordinator to oversee the project.

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Young people lead The Big Society way

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David Cameron delivered his 'call to arms' speech yesterday at the Conservative Party conference where his Big Society vision took centre stage. But his rallying cry was greeted with silence and even Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has admitted it will be chaotic.

But it really doesnt have to be all doom and gloom. Our very own Junction49 project which inspires and supports young people to develop their own community projects, campaigns and events, is living proof that The Big Society can actually work. All they needed to bring their ideas to life was a little help from their fellow volunteers and some tips and guidance from us.

Since the project started in September 2007, nearly 8,000 young people across the country are registered, well over 1,000 community project ideas have been generated and a quarter of these ideas have been delivered.

Take a look at just some of the great things they've been up to:

Young people have been doing some incredible things in their local communities.

Should we all be taking a leaf out of their book if we are to help Mr Cameron's Big Society vision really happen?

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