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

Back to Life offers a poetic match

B2L LogoB2L Logo We are delighted this week that more community awareness has been risen about mental health issues with a feature about our mental health volunteering project appearing in this month's edition of The Big Issue. 

Back to Life is the volunteering project that we run which matches people who have experienced mental health issues with volunteer mentors of the same age. It is a brilliantly positive piece, which really highlights the powerful impact that mentoring can have on those who are recovering from mental health issues.

It gives testament too to the matching process that forms part of the Back to Life model. Does this make you believe in the power of mentoring?

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Busy working mother seeks interesting volunteering opportunity

Volunteering has really made me change the way I see myself.  

As a busy mother with two active small boys,  I didn't think that I had much to offer an organisation and most importantly I assumed that I had NO TIME!

I am so glad that I have taken up the post of trustee of a small organisation.  Attending about 6 meetings per year and with some reading once the boys have gone to bed, this volunteering opportunity has shown me that I can make a real difference.

Why not become a trustee?

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Career options of yesteryear

trapeze-posterCouldn't keep up the practice for the Royal Philharmonic? Didn't get accepted to Central St Martin's? Never did run away to join the circus? Want to do something about it?

National Trust property Anglesey Abbey are looking for musicians of a professional or post graduate standard to provide background music in the gallery of the Abbey during house opening hours - call 01223 810080.

Polesden Lacey in Bookham, Surrey require volunteers to help with dressmaking and general sewing duties to make costumes and other items - call 01372 458203.

The Swamp Trust in Rotherham need volunteer workshop assistants to learn simple circus skills and help teach them to young people.

And if you just love a good wedding Sutton House in Hackney, London needs friendly volunteers who are free on Friday, Saturday or Sunday mornings to help meet and greet wedding guests parties. Call 020 8986 2264.

A veritable smorgasboard of volunteering opportunities!

You can search for many more National Trust opportunities here

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Volunteer for job satisfaction

Apparently we've come out of the recession, all be it limped out!

However research released this week by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reveals that job satisfaction levels have hit an all time low. This could have a detrimental effect on employers, since the unhappy worker could be more likely to start looking for a new job. If employers want to escape the risk of losing their staff they need to think about ways to retain them. 

Employee volunteering could be the key. Research has shown that employee volunteering can increase staff motivation and retention.

Here at TimeBank, we run employee volunteering schemes for the private and public sectors and we have proof that it can play a huge part in employee engagement and job satisfaction.  Not only do we run employee volunteering schemes but we pride ourselves on working with charities and local community organisations to find great volunteering opportunities that are tailored to the needs and skills of employers and their staff.

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Share the love

Photo from theloushe under creative commons licenseI was having a conversation the other day with someone who was explaining to me how hard it was for them to find a suitable volunteer opportunity and how long it took.

At first I couldn't quite see why it was so hard - I often see interesting suitable opportunities to give my time. Those I have done were also quick and easy to get into.

Then I realised why my experience was different. I have been lucky enough in the past that opportunities have found me.

I see opportunities for giving my time on the blogs of smaller internet based charities, as messages put out on Twitter and Facebook or simply by word of mouth.

Recently I saw one such opportunity in a 'Tweet' from the head of the technology group at Child's i Foundation. He was asking for volunteer developers and designers to work on the charity's campaigns and projects and linked to this blog post.

Yes it's a niche opportunity only available to those with certain skills but looking around the Child's i website you can find other ways to get involved. I particularly like the way they split up their giving into giving "time", "money" or "love".

Giving and sharing "Love" might be seen as the lower end of the engagement scale and includes adding a badge to your blog plus sharing their YouTube videos with friends. But, they assert, you'll be helping to spread the word and grow the supporting community.

Why not try and find a charity where you could help share the love? This will give you a better idea of what the charity is doing and also of what you might be able to do for them - participating in this way could well lead on to finding a deeper and more traditional way of giving of time.

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Would you, could you?

logo © LFFIt wouldn't be easy.  It wouldn't be simple.

But if you're looking for volunteering that helps solve some of today's problems in a way that nothing else can, then I think this could be it.  If you're looking for volunteering that's profoundly rewarding this might be it.

Volunteer with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the child protection charity, and you can help prevent children being abused in your community.

As a volunteer on a Circle of Support project, you offer support, along with 4 -6 other volunteers, to a known sex offender to help them reintegrate into the community. Working alongside police officers, probation staff and treatment experts you help keep children safe.

It makes perfect sense since isolation and loneliness are linked to an increased risk of re-offending. Circles offer practical and emotional support.

The Foundation needs new volunteers for four new circles in London (you have to be over 21).

Would you do this, could you do it? I think this role illustrates perfectly how volunteers can offer something that a person paid to be there can't. A known sex offender is likely to have few people in their lives who choose to be there, rather than being paid to be there.

But I'm not sure I want to do this type of volunteering, or could. Would you, could you?

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Not all doom and gloom

Yes it's January. Yes it's awful weather. And yes it seems like an eternity since last pay day.

So, in a quest to spread a little happiness I thought I’d share something with you that might cheer up your day, as it did mine.

I met one of our volunteers last week. An amazing person who mentors a young person recovering from mental health issues, providing the type of support a medical professional or a family member might not be able to.

They meet for coffee; they go to museums - nothing amazing in that I hear you say? But that’s just the point - something as simple as meeting for a coffee and a chat can make a massive difference to someone's life. Having someone who's not paid to be there and is chosing to spend time with them is invaluable.

And it's a win-win situation. The young person's confidence has grown and she now does things she wouldn't have done a few months ago - life changing things some take for granted like going out after dark or using  public transport.  And our volunteer benefits from her experience too, doing things she wouldn’t normally do, improving her listening skills and learning more about mental illness.

So yes, when you volunteer you might not change the world but you might change somebody's world and surely that's worth smiling about?

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It's not just charity shops who need donated clothes

piles of clothes © chuckp on flickrIf there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a hoarder. I hate mess, I hate clutter. I hate it when my flatmate leaves the Sunday paper on the table until Friday. (Flatmate: ‘I might read the motoring section.’ Me: ‘Before next Sunday?’ Flatmate: ‘Maybe.’) Might and maybe are indecisive no’s in my eyes. ‘Will you marry me?’ ‘Maybe.’ Case closed. No one needs to rush out to buy a new hat.

So when I went home over Christmas and my Mum asked me to help her clear out the loft, I agreed. Admittedly quite reluctantly, no one likes sifting through a life’s worth of junk least of all in a loft which only has half a floor. (My dad put his foot through the ceiling when he was laying it and never finished the job.) I agreed on one condition. This was to be a cull; an unsentimental, no just in cases, de-junk. No Mum, I don’t want to keep the boots that never fitted me in the first place, or the reversible jumper from when I was 9 (although I secretly wished I could still fit into it).

Fast forward a couple of hours, cull complete, bin liners brimming with bounty, my sister rocks up. (Nice escape sis, planned some might say) and asks what we’re planning to do with all the bags of old clothes. Charity shop we reply. Standard response, or so I thought.

My sister works for Next Link which provides specialist domestic abuse services for women and children in Bristol and Bath. One of the services is a safe house for women and children who have fled their homes. Often they leave with what they have on them at the time. No wallet, no phone, no house keys, no nothing. My sister asked us to give the clothes to her to take back with her so the centre can offer a change of clothes to the women in their safe houses. So next time you’re having a clear out, think about donating your old or unwanted clothing to your nearest domestic violence service. Find your nearest one here.

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