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

Behind the scenes at TimeBank...

Hi, I’m Rozina Sabur, I've been volunteering with TimeBank as a member of the Youth Advisory Group (or YAG!). Six of us have been advising TimeBank (as the name suggests) on how to make aspects of their organisation more youth orientated or more accessible to young people. This has been a pilot scheme running throughout the summer.

We all really enjoyed our time as YAG members, and we like to think we’ve made a difference to TimeBank, and Junction49 in particular, as two of our projects were connected the Junction49 website. For one of our projects, we planned a short explanatory film for the Junction49 website, to explain how users can make it as user friendly as possible. Working on projects such as this makes you realise how worthwhile being part of YAG is.

yag

We were given training in public speaking as well as training in working with set criteria and working as a group to make decisions.  As well as having the advantages of knowing we’re making a difference, and the training involved, we had the added bonus of a mentor from the TimeBank staff to help us develop and enable us to give our maximum to TimeBank.  Mentoring was a really great bonus to the advisory group, from my own mentoring I was able to learn more about PR- which I’m considering as a future career option.

Though we were giving our own time to TimeBank it’s a great way to get things back; you meet lots of interesting people, have fun working with your fellow group members and get involved with lots of opportunities you wouldn’t be able to otherwise sample. Tonight we’re giving our feedback to Helen Walker, the Chief Executive of TimeBank, and discussing with her the impact we think we’ve had and what needs to happen from here.

Watch this space!

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The Voicebot is coming

Next month there'll be a robot (Voicebot) in Westminster letting politicians know what young people care about.

Voicebot will be a live installation and the robot will write out what young people have typed online in answer to the question 'what do you care about?'

If you're between 16 and 25 and there's something you care about that you'd like to tell Gordon Brown then have your say through this website.

Although the Voicebot is a great way of raising awareness, inspiring and engaging young people I think in many ways it's a shame it stands alone, it's temporary and only the best submissions will be presented in parliament.  I hope when the experiment is over they make it clear how you can continue to have your say.   There are lots of ways of raising concerns with your MP you could use www.writetothem.com or look up their contact details on the UK Parliament website.

I've recently signed up to volunteer in schools to help teenagers make a difference in their local community.  One of the reasons I want to do this is I wish I'd realised at a younger age that society isn't an abstract concept that we all, including myself, have a role to play in.  And you can make a difference if you want to - you just have to know how.  I hope that through this volunteering I'll be able to help them learn how, and learn a lot myself!

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Secret rendezvous?

At university, my very nice but single next door neighbour would occasionally go missing for an entire evening.  Bed unused, or at least his bed unused we thought.  His lothario reputation soaring, we teased and cajoled but he never let on where he went on his clandestine night visits.

I was lucky enough never to feel the need to call our university's confidential counselling helpline.  But if I ever had, I might have had a better idea where he slipped off to all those evenings.

Not all universities have their own counselling lines, but take a look at Nightline for more details or your student union should be able to point you in the right direction.

Not a bad reputation to build.

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70 years of advice

This month the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) celebrates its 70th birthday.  I for one didn't realise they had been around for so long - first opening in 1939 after the outbreak of the Second World War.  Starting as wartime emergency service, the Citzens Advice service now offer advice on anything from debt and benefits to consumer issues and relationships.

its good to talk © project 365 flickr Of the 26,000 people who run the CAB, a staggering 20,000 are volunteers.  With 426 centres across the UK, these volunteers help resolve  5.5 millions problems a year.

Find out  more about volunteering with the Citizens Advice Bureau.

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Getting in for free

This weekend is London Open House.  It's an annual event that lets the public get inside buildings across the city for free.  It's not just a chance to take a peek inside famous buildings though. Eco homes open their doors as well as cultural temples and workplaces.

I signed up to help them out about a month ago.

Even though I've lived in London for 7 years I've always missed the chance to have a snoop around some of the most exciting buildings - so this year I thought if I volunteered it would get into my diary and stay in my diary.

So far so good.  What next?  Well I'll tell you when it's over. I start at 10am tomorrow morning.

UPDATE

I spent the morning at Hoxton Hall listening to traditional music hall songs and learning about the history of the building.  I also discovered how much the building is part of the local community and met several people who had spent time there as children.   When I was at the door I met one lady who told me a ghost story (without stepping inside as she was too afraid).  Rumour has it that a young girl haunts the bulding as she fell to her death from the balcony whilst watching her mother performing on stage.

I spent the afternoon at Dr. Johnson's house;  the home of a very generous 18th century man and birthplace of the dictionary.  I learnt a huge amount of history there and spoke to lots of people that I wouldn't normally.  The next day I used my priority volunteer badge to jump the queue at the Bank of England and got to hold a bar of gold with my bare hands.  Here are a couple of photos of the queue at Dr. Johnson's and one of the words in the facsimile dictionary on display,  published in 1755.

    P1030026P1030030

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The Spark in Sunderland

As the morning papers predict the number of  unemployed aged under 25 will soar to one million in the next couple of months, The Spark shows just how much young people can do in their communities.

[vimeo width="490" height="368"]http://vimeo.com/6605763[/vimeo]

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Half price hotels

Bedroom at the Hotel Max © apartmenttherapy.comOne hotel chain in America is offering half-price or free rooms for people who volunteer for a day. I used to think that volunteering was all about doing something for free.  Have I been wrong all these years?

The use of incentives, rewards and recognition for volunteers has been much debated, particularly around youth volunteering. RockCorps have done a great job at getting people to think about this issue. Their approach is very explicit - young people can't win or buy a ticket to one of their concerts; they have to earn one by volunteering.  It's a good way of saying thank you and a clever way of attracting new volunteers.

Volunteering is usually a two-way thing - I've got a huge amount out of my volunteering and yet the closest I've got to a tangible reward is a certificate and a DVD! I'm still not sure whether we should be offering more incentives to encourage and reward volunteering - though that half-price hotel room sounds appealing doesn't it?

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Hair dressing heros

purplemattfish'sWe all know what it's like to go to the hairdresser and they want to chat, but there's a new scheme in Northern Ireland to encourage hairdressers to spot people who might be feeling suicidal. After training they will be able to offer a listening ear as well as practical information on where to go to see a counselor, or organisations that can help.

I think this is a brilliant scheme and shows that people are willing to volunteer to listen to people in their communities, even as they go about their working day. It demonstrates that you really can fit volunteering into your life.

If you noticed that someone was in distress when you were going about your working day, what would you do?

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