June 1st-7th 2018, is International volunteers week. An annual opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to the millions of people across the globe who give up their own time, for free, to help others. ‘A celebration of volunteering in all it’s diversity’.
Volunteering may be something that many people feel they would like to get involved with but simply haven’t got the time for. This is understandable in the busy, demanding world in which we currently live, but this is a simple reminder that volunteering can take many guises and there are always ways, no matter how big or small, that you can contribute to your local community or the wider world.
In my family, we volunteer in different ways that suit us as individuals, as a family and work around the other parts of our lives. For example, my husband Matt has volunteered as a member of the ‘Cave Rescue Organisation’ based in Clapham, North Yorkshire for over 20 years. As a result he has been medically trained to the level of a paramedic and has spent much of his time underground (and overground) attending a variety of incidents; everything from a person who has had a suspected heart attack whilst walking up Ingleborough (this happened yesterday incidentally), to someone getting stuck/injured deep inside a complex cave system, which could take many hours to resolve. I am in awe of the work Matt and the other members of the Cave Rescue Operation do, particularly when you remember that they give up their time for free and are effectively on call 24:7. Without this voluntary service their would have been many lives lost over the decades since it began back in 1935 (reputedly the first of its kind in the world).
More than anything, volunteering seems to bring a lot of joy, not only to those who receive the benefits of it but to those who choose to volunteer in the first place.
Myself and my three daughters volunteer at local events such as festivals. This means giving up time for a handful of meetings per year and ‘working’ over a weekend when the event is taking place. This has been great fun and we have made many friends and look forward to the events each year. My daughter Tilly, who is an avid animal lover, volunteers at our local animal shelter also. She is only legally allowed to do this for 2 hours per week due to her age (she is 14), but she loves it and always comes home with a smile on her face and news of a dog being re-homed or some kittens being born.
Since retiring both of my parents have volunteered too. My mum has worked in charity shops and walks the dogs of people in her village who for one reason or another are unable to do it themselves. In his younger years my dad was a Samaritan and has more recently been a driver for the ‘community transport team’; volunteer drivers take elderly members of their communities to hospital appointments, wait and then drive them home. He has had to stop doing this though (he was 80 this year!) after he had a heart attack.
More than anything, volunteering seems to bring a lot of joy, not only to those who receive the benefits of it but to those who choose to volunteer in the first place. I believe that it is important to encourage children to volunteer where appropriate, as it teaches them that giving can be very rewarding and feeling part of a team or a group that does something supportive, encouraging or exciting for others can only ever be a good thing, right?
Volunteering is not only reserved for local projects, but can be something that you can do abroad and for longer periods of time also. There are countless opportunities across the globe to use your time and/or skills to help others. This could include animal welfare, caring for children, building water wells, teaching English, amongst many other things.
So, a big shout out to all the fellow volunteers out there, without whom the world would be a much greyer place. And if you’ve ever thought about volunteering but haven’t got round to it, let this be the nudge to get the ball rolling – you won’t regret it, I promise.
Here are a few ideas about where to look/go if you fancy a bit of volunteering:
- Local charity shops such as Oxfam/Scope
- Use social media to find out what’s going on locally/globally
- Look for notices in your local community centre or doctors/dentists surgeries
- Ask friends if they know of anything
- Local animal shelters
- School events