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

You're fired! Now get back to school" src="/sites/" alt="Image taken from" width="175" height="185">Dun, de dun, de dun, de dun, de dun, de dun, de dun, de, de dun, de dun, de dun, de dun , de dun, de dun,  DE! Can you tell what is is yet? That's right, it's the sound of Alan Sugar being nice.

The BBC are doing a junior version of The Apprentice in case you've got no idea what I'm blogging on about. It seems everyone's favorite Eastender, famed for not mincing his words, has decided that teenage tears on prime time TV might not do his reputation any favors.

If you'd rather take the role of Sir Alan's two sidekicks Karen Brady or Nick Hewer (Margaret's gone off to do her PhD), then you and your colleagues should check out Young Enterprise. They work with young people, business volunteers and schools nationwide and run a number of business-education programmes through the support of local and national business. The programmes enable young people to gain personal experience of how business works, to help them understand the role it plays in providing employment and to be inspired to improve their own prospects.

We run an employee volunteering scheme for T-Mobile where we help their staff to volunteer in their local communities and we've had a really positive repsonse from those who volunteered on the Young Enterprise programmes.

Probably best  to resist the urge to say 'You're fired.'  Especially in the primary schools....

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Big Society

Big SocietySo we now have a new Government. Depending on your voting preference you may think this is a great thing, or you may not. However the bottom line is they are going to have some ideas on doing things differently.

One of the more interesting ideas from the Tory Party is "The Big Society". The Big Society is centered around building society from the grass roots and using civic and volunteering action to better serve the needs of the nation. Cynics say that this is just code for making cuts and dropping services that should be provided by the state. But done well it could be a more progressive, people centered and cost effective way of tackling social issues and building stronger communities.

Whatever your view we have yet to see how this will effect the volunteering sector. Will it be a big boost to the value and effectiveness of volunteering, will our work become more important than ever? Or will it mean the loss of government support for the current volunteering infrastructure?

For now we will just have to wait and see how the idea is developed up. But whatever the outcome it is certainly a chance to develop new and better ways of serving our community.

Will you participate in the Big Society or as somebody said to me the other day, perhaps we are the 'big society' already?

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Gotta dance!

Dirty dancing theatre signI've been quite the culture vulture this month with no less than three trips to the theatre. Admittedly the level of culture has diminished as the month's worn on. It started with the Cuban National Ballet and culminated in a trip to see Dirty Dancing (or Dirty Acting as it should be renamed) by way of Noel Coward's Private Lives.  Anyway, if you know your petit jete from your hitch kick or you just luv(vy) the theatre darling, then here are some fabulous ways for you to, you guessed it, volunteer your enthusiasm.

T-Mobile Big Dance takes place from 3-11 July 2010. The aim is to encourage people to 'get into dance, increase fitness levels and generate a legacy of dance for all'. Throughout the 9 days, events will take place throughout London in parks, galleries and museums - showcasing the diversity of dance styles. Volunteers are needed to help with photography, filming and event organisation.

The Torch Theatre in Pembrokeshire needs Front of House and Marketing Volunteers and The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre in Taunton, Somerset have voluntary roles in their technical department and  Box Office, amongst others.

Aged 18-24? The Lowry in Manchester are specifically looking for volunteers in this age group. Application packs are available throughout May and June and the deadline for applications is 1st July 2010.

The perfomance mecca that is The Fringe festival is also recruiting volunteers. You could find yourself assisting with the  Fringe Opening and Closing evening parties or leading  a 3-person front-of-house team as a House Manager or Usher. Plus, you get 2 free tickets and an exclusive volunteers' party for your trouble.

And , er, here's one if you're a feminist and you like getting naked. Trilogy, an award winning hit show from the Edinburgh Festival 2009,  is coming to the Bristol Old Vic as part of Mayfest 2010. It's a 'celebratory venture into modern-day feminism' and women of all ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes are wanted for a naked dance piece! Performances take place on Friday, 14 and Saturday, 15 May 2010. Mayfest 2010 will feature more than 40 arrtists and companies and runs at venues across Bristol between 7 - 22 May 2010.

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Help make cooking child's play

Lets get cookingChildren as young as five years old are being teased by their friends at school because they're overweight.

Now we all know that childhood obesity has become a right old sticky problem for us in the UK - with 2.3 million UK kids being classed as obese. So it's no wonder then that there are tons of organisations popping up all over the place to educate children and their parents on how to eat more healthily.

Cooking clubs are a great idea because they make cooking fun for kids. Thanks to national initiative Let's Get Cooking, a number of schools across the country have now got a cooking club of their own. And you can easily volunteer with them in lots of different ways.

From giving a 'healthy' talk in one of the schools  to planning sessions and teaching children cooking skills. Or for more skills based volunteering, lots of the clubs need help with marketing and project management too. Simply visit the website and search by borough for a club near you.

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Why don't you...

watching TV

It's up by two hours and 29 minutes.

That takes us to 30 hours and four minutes every week.

That's how much the average Briton spends each week watching TV.

Now, when was the last time I heard someone say, 'I don't have the time to volunteer'. Is it just me, but I'm feeling nostalgic for that BBC programme, 'Why don't you?'

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On the run

27113_434273800277_594455277_5439806_5972408_nAlthough this years London Marathon has only just finished the ballot is already now closed for the 2011 race.

I went to watch this year to cheer on my friend and was struck by how many people (36,000 to be precise) are willing to put themselves through the pain for charities close to their hearts. It was great to see and I felt extremely proud of him and the other 35,999 people. So if you're thinking of running next year and are lucky enought to get a place, there are lots of charities that would love your support.

And just in case you were wondering, he finished in 3 hours 48 minutes.  And no I didn't compete. He just let me wear his medal and pretend!

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The story of Tracy Beaker... not really

Tracy Beaker

Every year about 8,000 young people as young as 16 leave care and head out into the world on their own - does this mean we don’t CARE anymore?

Who do these young people turn to for guidance and help?

When someone is about to leave care they have to make so many decisions.  Transition is always an unsettling time for anyone so thankfully there is an organisation called SOVA (Supporting Others through Volunteer Action).  SOVA volunteers help these young people gain independent living and life skills. From securing appropriate accommodation to ongoing support. The young people are encouraged to go on to become mentors themselves in time.

Could you give your time to a young person before and after leaving care? At SOVA you can volunteer to help care leavers with a variety of issues including how to manage money, health and hygiene, cooking and cleaning, careers advice and most important of all being a listening ear.

Approximately 90,000 children and young people pass through the care system every year but we can show the next generation that just because someone leaves care doesn’t mean that people don’t care anymore.

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Such Tweet Sorrow

ryanrocketship on flickrSo, Shakespeare finally meets Twitter (I won’t provide the obvious portmanteau for this).  The Royal Shakespeare Company has decided to reach out to ‘the kids’ by ‘performing’ a modern version of Romeo and Juliet via the online platform of Twitter.

Whether this is an innovative use of new technology or a banal waste of time (I'd go for the latter) it shows one thing: Twitter is being used in all sorts of new ways and is no longer just a place for bored students to let us know what they had for breakfast.

Thanks to our resident IT geek Damien we’ve been on Twitter for a while now.  We use it to share TimeBank news as well as to promote interesting volunteering opportunities we hear about. So, if you work for a charity and are looking for volunteers we might be able to help out.

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