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

The most open university

You've all heard of the Open University? Well, now there's an online university where anyone can study because the whole thing is run by academic volunteers. The International University of the People so far has 178 students from 50 countries. You can only study two courses at the moment so it has a long way to go before it competes with the elite universties. But they are working hard to make the content really high quality and not just a new version of Wikipedia.

It's attracting academics from  interesting places, but beyond the idea that volunteers would run the courses, I think it  shows just how much people are beginning to put into practice the technology that's existed for a few years now. If students at traditional universities are grumbling about the costs and lack of academic rigour then schemes like this could soon out pace them on all levels.

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Volunteering for a British passport

©4.bp.blogspot.comPeople  applying for British citizenship may be able to speed up their applications by volunteering.

It can be tricky to volunteer at the best of times, but what if there is a language barrier or you don't know where to access basic health care because you're new to this country.  Is it feasible to ask people to commit to regular volunteering to speed up their applications? Is this an incentive? We want to know what you think and you can tell the Home Office as well by taking part in the  Home Office consultation here.

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I do

honeymoon - world66Honeyteering. You and your newly betrothed choose to volunteer on your honeymoon, what a lovely idea. I did a straw poll of TimeBank colleagues and had various opinions, from the very adamant 'No way!' to 'Yeah, actually, that sounds like something different - I don't want to be sat on a beach with my bloke for two weeks'.

I'm sure this isn't a new concept but will it become as traditional as wedding cake? It would be great if it did, it just shows people are happy to fit volunteering into their everyday lives and relationships. So, would you swap two weeks alone to spend quality time with your new spouse or would you rather go and make a difference to someone else's life with a gang of other volunteers?

Me? Well, George Clooney hasn't found me yet but I'm sure he'd be happy to do a spot of 'honeyteering'.

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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.


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 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.


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.


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