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

No vacancies

no vacancy © smcgee

"Sorry, we're full."

It's not what you expect to hear when you offer your time to support others at Christmas & New Year. Surely there are thousands in need of support?  But this period is one of the peaks in the volunteering year.

And charities often need time to train their volunteers, or time to complete Criminal Record Bureau checks for volunteers that support children and vulnerable people.

On our Christmas & New Year website, we've put together something for everyone - but already some are full and no longer accepting volunteers. So, we've just added some new opportunities and actively looking for more. Let us know how you get on.

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Volunteering in your slippers

squeky fluffly bunny slippers c flickr.comApparently it's going to be a very cold weekend, so it's no surprise that you might want to stay indoors in your biggest wooly jumper and toasty slippers. Fair enough, so why not try Online volunteering? Support organisations all over the world by helping them write a strategic plan, put a funding proposal together or even use your creativity to design a website or promotional materials.

Virtual travel and volunteering - who'd have thought you could have such a great experience in your slippers? 

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Volunteers' rights

Human rights c hrea.orgIf you're a volunteer can you be sacked? Do you have the same rights as a paid employee?

You might be shocked to hear that as a volunteer many laws designed to protect employees don't apply equally to you. Not surprisingly, this has led to some very public claims both for unfair dismissal and discrimination brought by volunteers against organisations.

A national inquiry is to be held over the next couple of months which will examine the issues and challenges around the rights of volunteers.   The relationship between an organisation and its volunteers is a very special and fragile one so it will be interesting to see what comes from this.

Got an opinion?  Volunteering England want you to share your experiences and  opinions with them.

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Why I come to work....

Criag, Back to Life Project CoordinatorA few days ago I received a phone call that explains why I love working on Back to Life, a TimeBank  project that supports young adults recovering from mental health issues.

When I first met Brian* it was on a ward at St Guy’s Hospital, he was due to be discharged but frankly, did not look too well. Throughout our conversation he would look just at the floor and only use ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers. I have to admit I had serious doubts on whether he would even talk to a mentor. However, he was quite keen on it and in telephone conversations before his first meeting he said he wanted to. I knew one of the project's volunteers would be patient and positive with Brian and matched them right away.

Fast-forward four months, I am on the phone to Brian's mother who is really happy; she says her son is back to being as active as he was when a teenager, has become closer to members of his family, looks different with new clothes and hair style and is now starting work in a cafe.

She believed Brian's mentor, and the encouragement he gave, was a large part of encouraging this change.

The call reminded me just how amazing our volunteers are, and the impact they have on the lives of others

*Not real name

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Turn up or sign up

the_waveIt's a busy few days. It's International Volunteer Day this Saturday 5 December and next week sees the much talked about climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Why not do your bit for climate change? Oxfam is organising the UK's biggest ever climate change march - The Wave. It's this Saturday, 5 December in London and Glasgow.  And if you don't live here don't worry - Oxfam have chartered trains and coaches from 19 UK locations.

UN Volunteers is also running a campaign to count the hours that environmental volunteers are doing all over the world. Its up to over 1 million so far, so register your hours and make them count too. Don't hang around - you can only register your hours up until this Saturday, 5 December.

Make your mark on climate change and don't forget to switch your computer off (not on standby) when you've finished reading this!

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Give the gift of time

As it's getting near to Christmas I thought I'd share a cheery festive film of one of our Digitall volunteers and her mentee talking about what volunteering means to them.


If you, like them want to get involved in volunteering this Christmas, take a look at our Christmas website for inspiration and be a life-sized gift for someone who needs it. To steal from a well known phrase - remember, volunteering isn't just for Christmas, it's for life! Why not make it part of your New Year too?

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Joint enterprise

BBC's Panorama recently investigated the Joint Enterprise law.  It sounds like a business venture, and I guess it does apply to those in league with each other.  Joint Enterprise shares the responsibility of a crime not just with the person who delivers the fatal blow, but also the friends who encourage the person to commit the crime. 

The law places a huge amount of weight on the group of friends and their negative influence.  But what about the positive role friends can play?

Leap Confronting Conflict offers young people a chance to help prevent everyday conflict escalating into violence.  It's an interesting project because, just like joint enterprise, it recognises the importance of friends and peers.  It acknowledges joint culpability, but as a way of offering a solution to conflict.  And you don't just have to be under 21 to get involved.

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Aed logo ©

"Most of the people we’ve rescued have been in shock. One minute it’s raining heavily, then the next their home is filling with water and they’re being evacuated by the Red Cross", one emergency worker, Ian Rideout, explained on his blog.

Volunteers have been on the ground and at the centre of the action and many people have offered up their skills and time to help.  But not only is good emergency planning essential, you also need to plan to be an emergency volunteer.  

So just like you need to buy your candles and rations in advance, you also need to be trained in advance.  The Red Cross is always looking for extra help - sign up here to be an  emergency response volunteer.












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