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

More cake...

Cawan cake c Nono FaraYou may have gathered by now, we like (a lot of) cake at TimeBank. We had cake yesterday for my birthday, which is a good reason to work on your birthday. And I expect we'll have more later today.

This time it won't be a celebratory wedge of cake but a piece to say farewell. It's Rich, our IT System Administrator's (chief hacker) last day. He looks after your volunteer data,  keeps our websites and databases running,  makes sure the technical bit for registrations work, not to mention all the other technical bits and pieces he does - that I'll never understand.

He's off to start a new life in New Zealand. Of course, we all wish him the best but he'll be missed too and not only for his coffee making skills (I've made sure he's passed on his knowledge to me). Rich has been at TimeBank for about seven years - long enough to see many, many changes in its 10 years.

So, although it's our 10th birthday and we'll be celebrating and looking forward to exciting changes, it's the end of an era for Rich. Good luck and may you carry the volunteering torch on to New Zealand.

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Retro: Volunteering gets you high

This year marks 10 years since TimeBank launched. To celebrate this monumentous milestone I shall do a series of fun posts, but with serious bits, looking back at our online and media work over the years.

How best to start?

With a bang, of course...


This (originally flash) animation was part of a series we produced in 2003 which also included 'Volunteering gets you fit' and 'Volunteering makes you sexy'.

And does volunteering get you high? According to Allan Luks, author of The Healing Power of Doing Good, it does.  He surveyed over 3,000 people involved in volunteering and noted a phenomenon he called "helper's high" which contributes to ones overall sense of wellbeing and happiness.

How has volunteering got you high?

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cybermentorsHave you ever been bullied? Do you think you could help someone else who is being bullied? Beatbullying is a great organisation that is giving young people the opportunity to help and support each other online by becoming a CyberMentor whether the bullying is taking place online or offline.

CyberMentors are young people who have been trained and are volunteering their time online.  If you want to get involved or find out more about CyberMentors, including how to get involved, simply send a message to zoe@beatbullying or you can fill out a short CyberMentors application form

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Siblings Together

Siblings Together logoMost of the time I'm frantically typing away at my computer so it's nice to take a phone call and have a chat sometimes (and I do like a good chat). So, in a recent conversation I found out about the amazing work of Siblings Together.

The organisation is dedicated to bringing together siblings separated by having to go into care. It can be a traumatic experience which often has an impact on them long-term.  So, Siblings Together run holiday camps to bring the children together.

Camps are happening in August and they've pretty much got all the volunteers they need. So, you're wondering why I'm letting you know about this right? Well, they want to expand so they can offer more children across the country the opportunity to go on these camps - but the only way they can do this is with support from volunteers.

So, I'm suggesting you get in touch with them now and put your name down for next year (you may not have to wait until August either). They're also setting up a mentoring project to give ongoing support to the children after the camps, so that's another way you can get involved. And, if you want to put your fundraising skills to good use, they need help with this too. Choices, choices.

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Prevention is better than cure

As Joe or Josephine public can we actually do anything about crime levels or have any influence at all? We can help in one way by being a volunteer on a youth offending panel.

It makes no difference where you come from or what you do, as long you are over 18 years old and able to give three hours per fortnight to sit on the panel and be fully trained. Each panel has two volunteers recruited from the local community that sit alongside professional members of the local youth offending team.  As part of the panel you will discuss the reasons for the offending behaviour with the young person and ensure that they are given positive help to prevent further offending and agree a tailor-made contract aimed at putting things right.

This is quite a challenging volunteer opportunity but lets be honest whoever said volunteering was easy.

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I helped paint the town pink

Midnight WalkMidnight WalkI've never been one for running and have always looked on those that do fundraising runs with real admiration. So I did the next best thing and signed up to the Midnight Walk which was part of fundraising for my local hospice back home where my parents live.

I absolutely loved it. It was a fantastic chance to spend time with my Mum and it really spurred conversation too. We talked non stop for the two hours that it took us to complete the walk. The atmosphere was brilliant too. Everyone had made the effort to wear some sort of pink - whether it was flashing pink bunny ears or neon pink sweat bands and tu tu's, it was quite a sight, especially when you looked behind you and just saw a sea of pink! It felt wonderful to know that everyone there was walking for a friend or family member who had been supported by the local hospice and were incredibly grateful for the amazing work they do for local people who are terminally ill.

What's more, just from our registration fee, everyone who took part raised £98,000 - that figure will be lots more once people donate their sponsorship money.

But if you're not so much of a gym bunny (!) you could always support your local hospice through volunteering instead. You can get involved in things such as meeting and greeting patients, offering specialist skills such as hairdressing or complementary therapies, doing some decorating or gardening or offering bereavement support and information.  Just log on to the Help the Hospices websiteto find your local hospice and then contact them directly to find out if they need volunters.

I haven't done it yet but I'm seriously considering signing up to do a 10k on 11th July. I can choose from a list of charities I want to fundraise for. Not long to train though so I better get bunny hopping!

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Don't be a stranger

big lunchGet together with your neighbours on 18 July for this year's Big Lunch.  It can be anything from a simple lunch to a full-blown street party. 

The idea started as a wild seed at the Eden Project and the belief that the world can get better by working together, with nature, optimism and common sense. 

And if it all that sounds a bit fluffy here's the serious message behind it all.  Many of us  lead lonely lives or at least more isolated or anonymous lives than we’d like.  Then there's the small issues of crime, domestic violence, homelessness or children in poverty.

So, although fun, a street party can be the catalyst needed to face up to tough issues. When doors open up, people open up and neighbourhoods open up.  And it could just be the start of a journey into rebuilding our communities.

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Wimbledon, and on, and on...

800px-Nicolas_Mahut_at_the_2009_Wimbledon_Championships_01As Isner and Mahut  (they're the two chaps who were playing record breakingly long tennis this week at Wimbledon), are only to aware, sometimes, things take a bit longer than you might expect. 

Someone joked that the umpire should have said 'Deuce' when it got to 40-40.  And it's the same with volunteering. We're open about this fact  and hope that by managing your expectations  you'll gain an understanding of how the process works. Now lots of charitable organisations that use volunteers are as slick as the shores of the Gulf of Mexico (sorry) but not all of them. Sometimes the smaller ones,  have  more need for volunteers but less resources to deal with get the picture, might not get back to you as soon as you would like them to.

I filled out a volunteer form for the National Blood Service last Friday. I haven't heard anything yet and I'm not in the least perturbed. I'm going to give them another week and then I'll give them a call. I'll keep calling then until I either start volunteering or get told they haven't got any vacancies at the moment. After all, I want to help them.

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