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

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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While you're looking.....

Clean professional LaTex CV template c CV InnI read the other day that 18 year old Lauren, a school leaver is struggling to find a job - just one person, amongst thousands in the same situation. She says "I need experience to get a job, but a job to get experience."

Maybe it's because I'm in the volunteering world but it still surprises me that some people aren't aware of the benefits of volunteering to develop those much needed skills for work (I know we've done a fair few blogs about it).

Lots of mentors on our projects volunteer for that very reason. In fact, Digitall is perfect for young people because it's really flexible - fitting around work, study or even looking for a job. Mentors (aged 18-25) support people wanting to learn more about computers and get online so not only is it a great way to pass on your skills (which makes you feel good) but you'll get some great skills for your CV like communication and you'll also learn to be patient too.

Lauren - if you're reading this, sign up with Digitall today or sign up with TimeBank, we'll find you volunteering thats interesting AND could get you the skills you're after.

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Is volunteer management the key?

Here at TimeBank we believe that everyone should be able to volunteer and that it should be part of the fabric of everyday life. There’s no denying that it takes time, energy and commitment  but if all goes well you will have one of the best experiences while doing so.

I believe that good volunteer management is the key to having a good volunteering experience.  In these days of cuts, there is a worry that this maybe an easy slice of the cake to chop off but we must remember that effective volunteer management leads to effective and impactful volunteering.

Thats why I am supporting the Value Volunteer Management campaign which aims to increase awareness of the value and importance of investing in volunteer management.

If you are a volunteer manager another great source of information and guidance is the Association of Volunteer Managers website which is volunteer run and led by people who are volunteer managers, so they know what they're talking about.

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Something to be proud of...

Approved Provider Standard Mentoring and Befriending FoundationTimeBank head quarters has been celebrating this week.

One of our mentoring projects, Digitall, has been recognised by the national body for mentoring and befriending as an excellent example of a mentoring programme that has clear outcomes for the mentees. Our project went through a thorough 'health check' to see if it qualified in 12 different areas including having a clear purpose, a clear and consistent approach to matching the mentors and mentees and ensuring that the effectiveness of the project is evaluated so that it can be improved.

We've always been proud of Digitall - we've had great feedback from our mentors and mentees and the organisations we partner with to run the project. But this official recognition means so much. It will really help with future funding and hopefully encourage more people to sign up because they'll have the confidence to know they're going to take part in a project that will have a real impact on them and the person they'll be supporting.

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