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

Beat it

Fist c Noel FearnIs Gordon Brown a bully? The debate continues. Whether he is or not there are bullies out there - you could help to crack this problem.

Become a volunteer counsellor with the NSPCC or if you're 18-25 you could volunteer as a cyber mentor for Beat Bullying - helping young people affected by bullying. At Action on Elder Abuse you could volunteer on their helpline or spread the word in your local area.

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Something borrowed, something blue

wedding c archetypeA friend of mine, Heather, wants to get into volunteering so she asked me if I had any ideas. Our conversation went a bit like this:

Me: "What kind of thing do you want to do?"

Heather: "Really not sure. Maybe something outdoors - to start with?"

Me: "Cool, there's loads of places that do that- I'll have a look into it."

Whilst I was looking Fran (another TimeBank blogger) happened to mention that the National Trust do loads of volunteering opportunities, things that you might not expect them to do. I had a look - Heather is sorted. I've found her some gardening but I'm definitely going to tell her about the other opportunities - from being a room or events guide to a learning assistant. And even, get this, a wedding steward.  Who'd have thought?

Heather, if you're reading this - you asked for some gardening and I threw in a wedding!

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It's student volunteering week

SVweek2010c©volunteering englandSo what do students do when asked to come up with their own volunteering projects?

Take a look on Junction49 - it's impressive.

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Volunteer Volunteer Manager

Could you volunteer to be a Volunteer Manager?

Brightone is a totally volunteer run communications agency providing professional communications support and advice to charities.

They are searching for a "Superhero" to volunteer as their Volunteer Manager.

The comparison is probably not that far off, Superman and Spiderman were volunteers and I reckon spending up to four hours each week managing a team of volunteers may indeed require super powers.

If you feel up for the challenge - forget wearing your underpants outside your clothes for now and head on over to the Brightone blog for more details

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One for insomniacs

news image © bbcI couldn't sleep last night. So to stop me worrying about work, I turned to the BBC World Service for distraction. I didn't really get distracted because I tuned into a programme about volunteers. But I did get completely absorbed. 

Heart and Soul - followed two hospice volunteers in Michigan for eight months. I joined them last night for their training, induction and first visits to people in their homes as they learnt to leave their own values and judgements at the door.   Listen again and take a look at one of our partners, Help the Hospices.

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Give them a break

Respite CareGovernment plans revealed this week require local councils to provide free short breaks for parents and carers of disabled children.

Around £280m in local authority grants has been provided from 2008-2011 to improve services. That's such great news for all the people out there that spend time caring for others but often forget to care about themselves.

There are actually a number of organisations that provide much needed respite care to families and carers already. Not only does it give them a rest from the strains and stresses that they're undoubtly under but it also gives those being cared for the chance to mix, socialise and get a bit of independence. But these organisations are unable to provide that service without the help of volunteers.

So if you'd like to develop your life skills, enhance your CV, gain experience in the care sector or just have fun, Vitalise are urgently looking for volunteers on some of their upcoming residential holidays, be it for the day or over a weekend.

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How long does it take?

questionmark©oiwdigest.ottawablogs.caHow long? If you're looking to volunteer with children, older people - or anyone deemed to be vulnerable - it can take six months to a year to actually start.

Take Mercedes - who works in our Finance team at TimeBank. She started looking for a way to volunteer with children in schools last Summer, contacted Volunteer Reading Help but they asked for two sessions a week (she wanted to volunteer once a week), she found a project on do-it (but you had to live or work in the borough of Lewisham to take part and she lives and works in the next door borough of Southwark). She finally found a scheme by reading about some of the volunteering projects that staff do at PricewaterhouseCoopers

Mercedes had her first training last week, is now waiting for her CRB check to be done. She hopes to start reading with children in a local primary school next term - summer 2010.

It takes too long. It shouldn't take that long. We're looking for ways to speed things up.

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Love, Love, Love

made underground on flickrNow we’re well into February I could do the obvious thing and whinge about the commercialism of Valentine’s Day; the ‘I wuv you’ teddy bears and plastic roses dominating every high street across the land…

Instead, this seems like a good time to highlight another event taking place in February, one which is regularly overshadowed by ‘V Day’ -  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) History Month.  The fight for LGBT rights and recognition continues to this day and the organisations which work towards a shared goal of equality often rely heavily on the work of volunteers.

If you’d like to support an LGBT organisation you might want to think about becoming a helpline volunteer for The London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, a reporter/photographer for The Lesbian and Gay Foundation or a schools speaker for The Terrence Higgins Trust.  All these organisations are working towards creating a world in which everyone is entitled to love who they choose – an honourable pursuit, I'd say.

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