What is Volunteers Week?
This week is national Volunteers Week.
Volunteers Week is celebrated between 1st and 7th June every year.
It is a week in which the UK celebrates volunteers and says thank you to them for the contribution that they make.
The week raises awareness about the benefits becoming a volunteer. It also showcases the diverse volunteering roles that are available.
What are the benefits of volunteering?
As well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to have a positive impact on the volunteers themselves.
Volunteers often experience an increase in their self confidence and self esteem.
They make new connections, gain new friends and increase their sense of community.
We have discussed in previous blogs the positive impact being part of a close community and having social connections has on our health and wellbeing.
We know people who live in close communities live longer and are less likely to develop chronic disease.
It’s a win:win!
Volunteering also offers the opportunity to gain new skills.
Many people their new skills and experience in future job interviews.
Others use their new skills in future volunteering roles.
Who can volunteer?
Pretty much anyone over the age of 16 can volunteer.
There isn’t a typical volunteer.
People of every age, gender, race and cultural background do it every single day.
People also fulfil voluntary roles in a number of different languages.
While many people choose to volunteer after they have retired, it’s also a great way for students to gain experience and take a break from their studies.
Those with young families often enjoy spending sometime with older people. Sometimes their kids form a relationship with the person they are helping too and great inter generational bonds can be formed.
Volunteering is for everyone and people with disabilities can benefit from the many advantages that come from being a volunteer.
How can I get involved this volunteers’ week?
Short-term voluntary opportunities also mean that you can give as much or as little time as you want.
There are several organisations that can help you find a way to volunteer that suits you.
Do-it.org is a database of UK volunteering opportunities.
You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location. And it’s easy to then apply online.
Join-in runs volunteering projects as a legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Contact them to find out about how to get involved with local sporting and community projects.
If there is a particular group you would like to support you can search in that area. Some examples are helping older people (age uk), volunteering to help people with diabetes (diabetes.org.uk), reading for the partially sighted (visibility) or helping at your local animal shelter.
There are lots of easy ways to give your time to help others. What about having a cup of tea with an elderly neighbour? Helping out in your local area? Or what about making a regular commitment to volunteer with a charity or community group.
Young people can also volunteer either at school or in their own time. If you’re aged 16 or 17 you can take part in the National Citizen Service (NCS).
Some places allow children under 16 to volunteer but your local voluntary association can give you further advice on this.
What if I don’t have much free time?
Many people think that they need to have several hours of free time each week to be able to volunteer or to make a difference.
Happily, this is just not true.
ANY amount of time is valuable to the someone who needs support.
If all you have is ten minutes each week to call someone who is socially isolated then why not do it?
Or, do you have a couple of half hours per week to walk someone’s dog for them? Then you could make a huge difference to that person and to their wee dog.
If you don’t want to commit to volunteering on a regular basis you could just volunteer to help at one off events.
Has COVID taught us anything?
Millions of people have been volunteering to help others during the COVID pandemic and the impact this has had on the lives of countless people is palpable.
Volunteers have brought food to those who need it, both in their own homes and those who are living on the streets.
Others have delivered medicine, cut grass and walked dogs.
Some lovely local ladies have made scrubs, scrub bags and face masks bands for healthcare staff that have made a huge difference to those of us who need them.
Others have made heart shaped keepsakes for patients in hospital with COVID and their families. Wee tokens that represent the patient’s journey, one of which goes with the patient, the other goes home to the family.
Some of the ladies who live near me have made little ‘lucky pennies’ for NHS care staff. These have been so gratefully received in local hospitals.
I’m sure many of those who have helped would have previously considered themselves to be ‘too busy’ or ‘lacking skills’ and yet they have stepped up, done it and reaped the rewards that come with helping others.
So, if you have volunteered to help in any way over the last few months and have enjoyed it then why not find a way of keeping it up?
If you are reading this and think you have even ten or fifteen minutes to spare each week then why not contact your local voluntary association and find out how you can get involved.
How to say ‘Thank You’ this volunteers’ week.
Why not take a few minutes this volunteers’ week to say thanks to those who give their time. Here are some ideas of how you could go about saying ‘thanks.’