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

A beautiful pothole?

flowers on a street c ken2754@Yokohama A guy in London doesn't have a garden (not unusual here) but loves gardening so is resorting to filling potholes with pretty flowers. It's a lovely idea; it brings colour to our streets and gets rid of nasty potholes - at least until it gets squashed anyway.

Become a guerilla gardener and transform unloved pieces of land, or a pothole if you so wish, into something beautiful.  We could all do with a bit more colour in our lives.

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Freewheeling for life

I love it when I discover new ways to volunteer. I don't ride a motorbike, but if I did, I think this would be one for me.

As a motorcylclist with Freewheelers EVS   you ride one of their 'blood bikes' transporting emergency supplies for the NHS. They save the NHS thousands of pounds that would otherwise be spent on couriers and taxis. But more than anything, they ride because they love it.

You have to be over 25, have a full, unrestricted, motorcycle license and an advanced qualification.  They only operate in the South West - but due to demand, they've pooled the information you need to start your own group.

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Volunteer, change your career

Curriculum VitaeYes, yes, giving up your time to benefit someone else is all very nice and aren't you good for doing it? But it doesn't all have to be about what you're doing for them. Think about what volunteering is doing to your CV and your employability.  If you are thinking about changing career or you're trying to break into a certain field, there are plently of volunteer placements that can get you ahead of the game.

Want a job in PR but haven't got any relevant experience? Bright One really is the perfect organisation for you to volunteer with. They are currently looking for an Account Executive.  If you're a  student, graduate or career changer, this is an exciting opportunity to gain invaluable practical experience in PR.

Want to be the next Rankin or John Simpson?  The Lesbian and Gay Foundation in Manchester are looking for volunteer photographers and reporters.

Thinking about teaching but want a taster first? YourStory is a London-based, not-for-profit organisation that works with disadvantaged people from all social and ethnic backgrounds. Their projects include education and career devlopment programmes for young people and some are based in primary and secondary schools. Voluntary roles are tailored to the kinds of skills you want to develop. Read their volunteer page for more detailed information and how to get in touch.

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Pass the tissues

Box of tissues c profernityI saw the film Blind Side last night - the one Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for. I thought it would be a bit cheesy and too 'Hollywood' but I gave it a go - I couldn't be bothered with anything too intellectual on a Sunday night. 

I'm no film critic and I'm a sucker for a nice story (I've been known to get a tear in my eye watching Eastenders) but it was pretty good - mainly because it made me think. Short synopis - a rich American woman and her family change the life of a homeless teenager. 

You could say it was easy because they had money to help him out but it wasn't that that changed his (and their) lives. It was giving him hope and support. You don't need money to do that. Being a volunteer mentor for an organisation like Catch22 could change the life of a young person too.

Oh dear, I'm welling up again - I'm off to get a tissue.

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Support our troops

Not a week goes by without the sad news that one of our soldiers serving in Afghanistan has been killed.

While they are far from home - there are things we can do here in the UK to volunteer and show your support.  The Royal British Legion is one organisation that needs volunteers to continue its work to safeguard the welfare, interests and memory of those who are serving or who have served in the Armed Forces. 

 Their annual Poppy Appeal is the best known of their campaigns but they also need:

  • Volunteer caseworkers - working in the local community and giving advice and help on anything from state benefits to bereavement.
  • Volunteers to visit ex-service men and women who are housebound or in hospital.
  • People to take part in their  fundraising events - from Pedal to Paris to the London Marathon.

Find out how you can get involved.

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Cupcakes for men

cupcake Butch Bakery Cupcakes make manly cupcakes. For manly men. And no, it's not a joke.

Volunteering it seems is mostly for women. 70% of you who sign up with TimeBank are women.

But we do manly volunteering too.

It’s not what you might think. Manly volunteering isn’t all muscle and sweat – for example, we need men to mentor other male refugees in London.

Many charities are keen to recruit men so why not encourage all those men that you know (and yes, I’m assuming you’re mostly female if you’re on our site) to think about volunteering. Volunteers sometimes get cake too!

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Missing Masterchef

ReneS on FlickrSince Masterchef finished on Wednesday I think I’ve been suffering from withdrawal symptoms.  Where will I get my fix of ‘big rustic flavours’ and poncey desserts with three kinds of fruit puree?  I’ve been reading recipe books and online food blogs but it’s just not hitting the spot.

You see, I’m one of those annoying people who dedicates way more time to reading and watching programmes about cooking than actually doing it.  I get sucked in by the luscious photography and smooth talking French chefs but often get home too tired and lazy to knock up anything more exciting than pasta and pesto.

So, how to put my interest in food into real life practice?  Well, I found a great charity called The Food Chain which distributes meals to those affected by HIV in London.  They are determined to make sure that people living with the virus need not go without healthy and sustaining food and provide not only home delivered meals but also nutrition advice to those who need it.  There’s also the Let’s Get Cooking campaign which sets up cooking clubs all over the UK to encourage families to learn how to make healthy, tasty food.

Perhaps I need to turn the TV off and get my pinny on….

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Challenging volunteering

A story in the news this week has highlighted again that although not all volunteering can be fun - it can be rewarding.

A team of volunteers have the harrowing and serious task of searching for the body of  Keith Bennett, a victim of the Moors murderers, on Saddleworth Moor.

Volunteers from the Global Rescue Services and International Rescue Training Centre teams are carrying on the work abandoned by the police last year.  The police investigation is now classed as 'dormant'. Only a major scientific breakthrough or fresh evidence would prompt them to start a new search.

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