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

Pensioners' playground

Playgrounds these days c pflyChildren - move away from the playground.

Hyde Park in London is home to a new free gym to encourage the over 60s to get fit. They'll be able to do a stint on a cross-trainer or use the body-flexer, free runner, sit-up bench, flex wheel or static bike. Phew, if they get through all that lot they'll be ready to take on a marathon.

I think it's a brilliant idea. It's equally important to keep your mind active too as you get older.  One of our projects, Digitall gets more older people surfing the net (it's a lot less strenous than a session in a gym) with the support of a younger volunteer to show them the ropes.

With Silver Surfers' Day tomorrow it's the perfect time to grab a gran, take a walk to your local UK online centre and show them the wonders of the World Wide Web. Exercise and brain activity - what more could you ask for?

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Meet Wenlock and Mandeville

mascots-for-london2012-home-page-nweCreated from from the last drops of steel left over from the construction of the final support beam for the Olympic Stadium, the London 2012 mascots were launched this week.

It's made me feel excited. The launch of the mascots feels like one step closer to the games.

And if you, like me want to get involved and volunteer at the games then the official volunteer programme launches this summer.  But you can get started now by being part of Changing Places.

Changing Places aims to use the power of the Games to inspire communities to improve public spaces – for example parks, open spaces and watersides.

Oh and if you fancy keeping up to date with what Wenlock and Mandeville are up to, visit their website and follow them on Twitter.

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Qualifications through volunteering

charityThose of us that volunteer understand how rewarding it can be.  I’m all for that warm fuzzy feeling inside but you can also get tangible rewards like qualifications through volunteering.

If you are interested in volunteering in a Red Cross charity shop there is a variety of NVQ qualifications on offer to you.  You can attain up to a level 3 in Retail Skills and you can also attain NVQs in Customer Service or Team Leading.  Of course you don’t have to do the qualifications but its nice to know that its there if you wanted to do it.

If you are interested in finding out more about this contact the manager at the Red Cross charity shop near you

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On Your Bike!

duchamp on flickrI went to visit a friend in Bristol recently and remember walking past some sort of community bike workshop thingy. I couldn’t work out exactly what it was at the time and now this article in the Guardian has revealed all.

The Bristol Bike Project works with refugees and asylum seekers – taking in unwanted bikes which are then fixed and taken away by the service users themselves. As the founder of the project makes clear, transport can be a real issue for those waiting for refugee status and this is a way of not only providing them with free transportation but of offering skills based volunteering. I think it’s a really amazing project and it would be great to see more like it spring up around the country.

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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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