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

The best things in life are free....

Friends c Hot rodI for one agree with that. Of course there are some things that money CAN buy, but friends? Surely not. has recently been set up in the US and yes, it does what it says on the tin. I know I'm really lucky to have wonderful friends that I've met throughout my 33 years, not everyone is so lucky.

I guess there are lots of reasons you'd rent a friend - a busy job or perhaps you just find it difficult meeting new people.

My tip? Yep, you've guessed it.  Try a spot of volunteering - a wonderful way to meet like-minded people and the best way to get started is sign up with us, we'll get you in touch with your local volunteer centre, give you monthly updates of great ways to volunteer and we'll keep in touch to see how you're getting on - just like friends do.

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Countdown to Vintage at Goodwood

Vintage-Logo-Latest It's festival fever at the moment, although I'm a bit miffed that I haven't managed to go to even one.

But thanks to the perks of the job I'm off to Vintage at Goodwood in nearly two weeks time and I'm so excited! We've, or should I say our very talented events manager Pigalle, has secured the opportunity for TimeBank to be part of the first ever festival celebrating the best in British cool.

Vintage at Goodwood, launched by long term supporter of TimeBank Wayne Hemingway, is all about celebrating the amazing fashion and music from five of our most creative and cultural decades, the 50s, 60s 70's and 80s. We thought we'd add a bit of sparkle to the event, (not that it hasn't got it already of course) by injecting a bit of volunteering as only we know best.

Social values changed drastically throughout the decades too,  from 1960’s activistism to 1980’s feminism. At the festival we'll be tapping into people's current social values by capturing their pledges and needs. There's about ten of us volunteering from TimeBank and we will be capturing peoples pledges and our friends at thinkpublic will also be joining us.

We're dessing up in clothes from the various different eras which will be fun.  I'm dressing in 80's gear and Pigalle's already told me that Rokit Vintage who are supplying the clothes for free are really excited about going crazy with a real trashy style! What have I let myself in for?!

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One in 100

Numbers c pink sherbert photographyThat's the number of people in Britain that have autism. Autism is a developmental disability affecting how someone communicates and relates to other people. 

The National Autistic Society have reported that  71% of children with autism have mental health problems - they're often more susceptible because they find it hard to understand the world around them and explain how they're feeling.

So, how can you get involved? I found this quote on the National Autistic Society website from a volunteer befriender 

"Maureen befriends Robbie. Sometimes they stay in the house with Robbie's little brother, watching videos or talking and playing. Robbie loves washing machines so sometimes they'll make pictures of washing machines, or sometimes they go out to electrical shops to look at washing machines!"

Did it make you smile? I certainly did - so much so that I told Julia (another blogger) about it. But more than that I think it shows how it's the simple things that can make a difference to someone's life. Pretty amazing.

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How much time does it take to build a big society?

Laura LeaperLaura Leaper works really long days and still manages to volunteer.

"A lot of people sit at dinner parties and talk about causes they believe in, but I'm doing something about it."

"I'm not saying it's easy - it's still difficult to fit in. But the benefits far outweigh the time I spend and it's an incentive to do it. I never walk away thinking it was a waste of time."

Laura volunteers as a menetor on Back to Life and was happy to talk to the BBC about why she makes the time as part of their feature on finding the time to build a Big Society.

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Two years to the London Olympic & Paralympic Games

LondonAmbassadorsIn order to have a successful Games thousands of volunteers are needed to make it happen.  Today marks the two year countdown and is being used to announce ways of how you can be a part of this once in a lifetime experience.

There are two main volunteering programmes during the Games. Firstly the Mayor of London and his team at City Hall are recruiting “London Ambassadorswho will be on duty as the welcome face of London at key entry points e.g. airports, rail stations and tourist hot-spots like Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden etc to welcome the world to the host city of the Olympic Games.  You can register from today

Secondly the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) is recruiting “Games Makers” who will be volunteering in and around the Olympic venues – there are a huge number of roles, ranging from doctors to dope testers and from sports marshals to press operations and also thousands of general helpers needed to make the Games happen.

If you want more ideas and advice on all sorts of ways to volunteer across the UK why not sign up to the TimeBank newsletter which will inspire you to get out there and volunteer in the build up to the greatest show on earth.

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Can I pick your brains?

cake 1We're putting together a new guide to send out to would be volunteers when they register with us.  I'm looking for people who are willing to spare ten minutes to answer a quick questionnaire about what you think of it and how useful the information is.  

It doesn't matter if you haven't volunteered before or if you've been doing it for years - all comments will be gratefully received!  Just email to let me know you're interested and I'll be in touch shortly.

And I don't want to be accused of bribery but in true TimeBank style I might just give you cake if you do..

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Olympic flame on the horizon

olympic-torch-9Can you believe that there is only 2 years to go before they light the Olympic flame in London town?  Maybe this historic fire in London will bring inspiration and exhilaration as opposed to that other great fire!

To celebrate there are UK-wide events counting down to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. From art and sport to dance, they're happening this weekend, 23 - 25 July.  Most of them are free so go along and enjoy yourself and get involved in your local community.  So many organisations are putting on events - you never know you might end up volunteering with one of them.  What will you choose ?

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The government's new National Citizen Service - a NEET idea?

I think most of you will have heard about the government's Big Society plan, in fact talk of it is rarely off the front page at the moment.

Well today saw David Cameron reveal a central part of it, the National Citizen Service, a voluntary two month programme involving community work, designed to give 16 year olds "a sense of purpose, belonging and optimism." It made me think of Stevie, a troubled teen whose life was changed as a result of volunteering. Stevie's Mum and Dad were in and out of jail for as long as she can remember, she was made homeless twice and she experimented with drugs and alcohol at the age of 12. She was always in and out of trouble with the police and was expelled from school a lot. She also struggled with her sexuality and never felt accepted.

Then she joined PAG where she got involved in one of our volunteering projects that we ran there. And together with a small group of young people not in education employment or training, she was given the chance to be trained and supported to develop and run her own community project. 

As a result all of the young people developed essential skills that helped increase their chances of employment too. Stevie's life has changed so much. As well as a drastic change in attitude, confidence, drive and motivation she's also achieved her level 1 writing, literacy and numeracy. The most amazing thing she's done is to go on to volunteer in Africa where she helped build schools and drinking wells.

The extreme poverty she was exposed to had a huge impact on her and she's now doing presentations for other disadvantaged young people about her experience. She's become a real volunteer ambassador for her community where she is promoting volunteering to young people who are a risk of being excluded from school and helping to deliver various activity programmes for disabled people.

She's currently on a couple of different courses to increase her chances of employment and has also joined a lesbian and gay group to get support and support others who are struggling with their sexuality. David Cameron wants his National Citizen Service to be his most powerful legacy.  Stevie has most definitely left a  volunteering legacy in her community.

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