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

Save a life

DeanI heard some very sad news recently. I met Dean Sheikh's mum through one of our old projects, she was campaigning tirelessly for her son.  Dean had a multifunctional disorder; Dyskeratosis Congenita and desperately needed a bone marrow transplant to keep him alive. Unfortunately, doctors weren't able to find a match and he died last October.

Why weren't they able to find a sufficient match? Dean only had a 1 in 125,000 chance because there aren't enough Asian people coming forward to donate. Dean's mum campaigned alongside The Anthony Nolan Trust, ACLT and the National Blood Service for anyone from ethnic minorities to donate blood or bone marrow. 

But it doesn't matter who you are - register to donate, somebody out there is waiting for your help. 

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Big Society:blog your way through it.

Burnt out carUnless you've been living in a cave for the past month, you'll have heard the Blues and the Yellows (I'm referring to the government as a football team to make this blog sportingly topical) mention the words Big Society. Davey C (a bit like Stevey G, except he's captain of the whole country not just a football squad) wants communities to feel empowered to come together to address local issues and for charities and voluntary groups to play a role in delivering public services. Now before you mutter, it's just another way of saying funding cuts and dismiss the idea, actually think about the possibilties for you as an individual and for your community.

Did you steer round one too many potholes this morning? Why can your mate who lives 20 miles away recycle food yet you've only just got recycling bags for paper in your area? No doubt you voiced your concerns to a work colleague, spouse, yourself. But did you consider blogging about the issues?

 William Perrin did and his actions took him all the way to Downing Street for last months seminar on the Big Society agenda. After countless phone calls and emails to his local council about broken street lamps and abandoned fridges (which resulted in his area being amongst the first to get new street lamps), William tapped in to the power of the blog and created Kings Cross Enivronment. It's a permenant online community where users can share their news, views, events or grumbles from street tipping to your next local blood donor session.  The success of Kings Cross Enivronment spurred William to create  Talk About Local, a website that offers loads of advice on setting up your own online community to help people communicate and campaign more effectively to influence events in the places in which they live, work or play.

The idea is that by representing  your local community in an online community,you can increase community engagement,  raise awareness about the issues that matter to you,  and reach an audience beyond your postcode. And let off some steam while you do it!

This is your chance to have a say, take it.

To read the Building a Big Society document, click here.

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What can you do to help failed asylum seekers?

refugeeweek_org_ukIt was heartbreaking to read this week how asylum seekers who can't work, can't claim benefits and have nowhere to live in this country, have to try and live off £10 weekly vouchers given to them by The Red Cross.

A report also revealed how up to 20,000 asylum seekers are living in destitution in the UK and are wholly dependent on charities for food and warmth. But they have no choice. One man said, "If you understand that it is a choice between living here in this way and going back to be slaughtered, then you understand that there is no choice."

A huge number of people who read the article in The Guardian were affected by it like I was and a large majority asked how they could help. It's now published a list of charities that you can volunteer with or donate to.

The British Red Cross themselves have a Refugee Services that you can volunteer with to offer support and advice to make it easier for refugees and asylum seekers to settle into a new environment.

Choose from befriending, helping refugees and asylum seekers access healthcare and clothing or showing them where to find local necessities such as the post office and library. If you don't get to volunteer straight away you could just carry out a 'simple act' as part of Refugee Week's Simple Acts campaign running this week.

Just signing off an email with a note about refugees or cooking a dish from another country could help them reach their goal of achieving 20,000 simple acts by this Sunday 20th June.

Another charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers is Refugee and Migrant Justice. But it is currently under threat of closure. You could help just by signing a letter to show your support.

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Away Day

20100615_064Tuesday was TimeBank’s first away day in two years and long overdue. Some may say such things are a luxury. I think they're essential to a creative, inclusive, organisation going through tough times, but who at the same time are excited by the opportunities the future holds.

Over the past 18 months we have refocussed our Vision, Mission and Values, we have established our strategic direction and are on the brink of launching a new website and brand AND we have a new government with a vision for a Big Society which is led by volunteering. What a chance to capture our thoughts on how we might input to shaping the Big Society. When we did our VMV work we were lucky enough to have some pro bono support from innovation agency Happen. Yesterday they once again gave us two of their staff SJ and Becki to facilitate our day – so they were walking the talk – volunteering using their professional skills to help us.

We were at a fantastic venue which I would highly recommend, reasonably priced, and a great space - Body and Soul. It was also a charity so the cost of rental went to a good cause – charities helping one another.

Was it worth it? Without a shadow of a doubt. What Happen do in a seemingly light touch and seamless way is help us to think creatively, give us the space to do so and make sure we get something tangible and meaningful out of it. Watch this space for our thinking on the Big Society, on new projects we want to do and a reinvigorated staff who finished the day with a pint in Islington still talking about changing the world.

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July 3rd - Paint the town ruby red

rainbow flags

40 years have passed since the stonewall riots in Manhatten.  So much has changed and equal rights for all is now a much more accepted idea.  Pride is a world wide movement advocating equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people.  On July 3rd its the annual Pride Parade here in London and according to the London Metropolitan Police, Pride London is the best organised London street event.

What makes it such a fantastically organised event is the 300 volunteer stewards that help manage the Parade and the additional 20 volunteer stewards that  support disabled participants and ensure that disability access standards are maintained throughout the day.

Pride London is run entirely by volunteers so why not be a part of one of the most colourful days in London

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blood1The World Cup is on its way.   

Which means on top of all the other stuff in our busy lives, we'll want to fit in a few 90 minute matches as well.  This leaves very little time for us to do something small that will make a huge difference.   

Ever thought it might be worth missing the first five minutes of a match - to make the difference between life and death for someone else?

Did you know that 96% of us rely on only 4% of us to give blood? During the World Cup the blood transfusion service are predicting up to a 20% drop in donations, as yes you guessed it - we'll be busy watching the beautiful game.

So don’t let those predictions come true and find out where you can give blood during this World Cup.

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Let them eat cake

cakeHere at TimeBank we celebrate everything with a nice big slice of cake.  And today we want to celebrate and say thank you to all our volunteers. That's all of 295,000 of you who've registered with us as well as the thousands of others across the country who give  up their time to volunteer.

To mark the end of Volunteers' Week today we're heading to an event at Parliament with some of our volunteers - so that  MPs will be able to say thank you too.

And as for the cake, unfortunately we can't send you all a piece. But why not treat yourself to some today and give yourself a big pat on the back at the same time!

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Volunteers' Week

Volunteer<img class=Laura works in our youth team and also volunteers as an Online Peer Advisor for a website for 16-25 year olds to turn to for impartial support and guidance through life.

A young person writes in anonymously with a personal question and they get a personal response back from a fellow young person, in this case Laura.

Laura says, “It feels really satisfying to know you’ve advised someone who you know might not have been able to talk to someone else about their problem. As the volunteer, you don’t know who you’re talking to so it forces you to answer in an impartial way. So I’ve picked up a different skill of writing. And it’s made me more objective too. It’s made me think about people's problems in a much more logical, objective way. It’s almost helped me be a better friend too because of the need to be more open minded.”

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