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

Switchback

Guide 2009 © 1 ChefsI've never been to jail (apart from on a Monopoly board), but I'm guessing the food may meet with a few choice words from Gordon Ramsay. For young men just getting out of prison Switchback must be a real lifeline to not only rediscover the joy of food but make a career out of it (no lumpy gravy in sight). 

Switchback gives newly released male prisoners unpaid work as trainees at the Crisis Skylight Cafe in London's East End. It's not all about training; they also get the support of a mentor - helping them to make positive changes to their life, get a job and keep it.

It never fails to amaze me how varied volunteering can be and small organisations like Switchback are always looking for willing volunteers. So next time you hear about an organisation that sounds interesting, get in touch - I bet they'll welcome you with open arms.

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Creating a buzz

Orlando Clarke is launching an initiative to help tackle youth crime by teaching troubled 16 to 19-year-olds how to maintain beehives and harvest honey.  'Bees,' Orlando claims, 'give us an awareness of our movements and our physical and emotional strength.'

Sounds a little bit, well you know.  But honey bees only sting when defending their nest and with 40,000 of them possibly out to get you, I would think nature would take swift action if the young people started messing around the hive.  So perhaps the discipline of working with bees might not be a bad thing.  What do you think?

The scheme also has the added benefit of helping the honeybee population which has been in sharp decline over the last few years.

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Did our guide help you volunteer?

timeguide

When you sign up to TimeBank we match you with a local volunteer centre and send you a copy of our TimeGuide to help you find the right volunteering opportunity.

We're running out of TimeGuides and to be honest, not sure what we should do next. Some of you say it was fantastically helpful, others say it didn't tell them anything new.

Please tell us what would help you. Thank you.

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How to make a world of difference

The Vodafone Foundation have been trying to do volunteering a bit differently recently. They've been running a scheme called World of Difference where you can apply to volunteer with a UK charity for two months and Vodafone will pay you to do it. It's an interesting way of incentivising volunteering and could create a shift in how people view giving their time.

The idea is to make volunteering attractive to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to help a UK charity full time. I think it's an innovative way to get people engaged with charities at home. Do you think that this is really volunteering?

You have to apply and be selected, so if you're interested, the deadline is 3 November.

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Joining the debate

After Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, I sent a letter to the Independent’s editor, because his views totally contradict what we see almost daily at TimeBank. I was delighted to see it published yesterday.

We are constantly striving to breakdown barriers through our volunteering projects. How depressing that one man is given a voice which can do so much damage to communities by quoting what are clearly unsubstantiated ‘facts’.

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Put your heart into volunteering

heart shape © leeAnnL Flickr10,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant. Every day three people die waiting for one.  And you can donate an organ while you're still alive.

16.3 million people have already joined the NHS Donor Register.  Volunteer to be a donor at  www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 1232323.

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Come on Dad

www.orillas.org.mathI'm really proud of my dad. He's never had to use a computer for his work but after retiring did a computer course and loved it. Now, I know this is a bit selfish but I thought, great - he won't keep asking me to show him how to send an email or attach a picture. Er, no.

He's got the basics but when I mention Google he gets a glazed expression. So, I've realised that it would be really helpful if we sat down, one-to-one and went through some of the things I know. So, I'm going to stop making excuses 'I'm out tonight or Coronation Street is on' and what better day to start than Get online day tomorrow.

It's great to volunteer to help people you don't know but what about those close to you?  Go on, there's no excuses to put it off now.

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Food, glorious food

Mirepoix © Glane 23 WikimediaI can't get enough of MasterChef - and if conversations about who's going to win are a guide to go by -  it's as good a reminder as any of how food can create new connections between people.

I've volunteered with Food Chain in London, and loved working alongside professional chefs volunteering in the kitchen. So if food's your passion, why not find something in your area, try Lets Get Cooking?  All together now, "Yes Chef!"

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