In a previous article I expressed how pleased I was with the work our Waste and Recycling team does. I noticed a reply left by ‘Mike’ which said not to forget volunteers and groups who also help out. As volunteering week took place last week, I thought it would be a good time to address this.

I think it is important to recognise, respect and thank those who take pride in the community to help others and highlight the great work that they do – maybe even inspire someone to join in!?

Anyway, I have this theory. When I think of volunteers I get this image in my head of groups of people sweeping the countryside in an organised fashion collecting litter – perhaps this is a slight injustice to the volunteer sector because they really do so much more!

Nevertheless I get the feeling that volunteer groups don’t have as many members as they used to – people who are driven to help others and make a difference.

But why? I have some ideas. People are living busier lives, travelling further afield, exploring different opportunities. So quite simply they may not be around as much and this can create a lack of cohesion in a community.

Like many other workers across the country, I would place myself in this category and actually look forward to getting involved with various groups when I have more time on my hands.

I hope this isn’t the case but maybe the cynic in me is telling me it’s something else – ‘it’s not my countryside, someone else can do it’. Are we too comfortable with others doing things for us? How many of us don’t participate in these kinds of activities because they think it’s someone else’s responsibility?

Volunteers do a wonderful job and there aren’t enough of them. Think of all those who you may or may not know that give up their time to help people less able whether it’s for social care, working in shelters, youth volunteering or even conservation.

A good friend of mine, Tracey Rudling, the Chief Executive of Colchester Community Volunteering Service (CCVS) does great work with the organisation and research she has conducted shows that one of the main barriers to volunteering is not knowing where to go.

CCVS is a great place to approach if you are interested in volunteering as they have a number of different schemes. They provide training, support and even expenses for certain volunteering and the people over there couldn’t be more helpful.

One of their schemes is called ‘Time Bank’ and is volunteering with a twist. It is ad hoc volunteering in your community as and when something is requested that you can help with.

I’ve got to know some great anecdotes from Tracey and her team at CCVS and wanted to share them with you in the hope that it can inspire others to volunteer:

  • A blind lady requested some help through the Time Bank scheme. She wanted help in writing out her Christmas cards. CCVS were able to match her to someone who was keen to give up their time to help someone in their local community. The cards were written and since then, the two members have stayed in contact with each other and regularly meet as companions.
  • A young person was struggling to interact with people as she was very shy and anxious about meeting new people. This made joining college very difficult and was affecting her work. Youth workers at her local youth group encouraged her to use a voluntary role to build up her confidence. CCVS worked with her to find a role that she was interested in. Placing her was easy – following a discussion about her interests, we identified she likes working with younger people so we placed her within a local youth café. This taught her to speak to new people and also make choices that would affect other people. Since volunteering she has made great strides. Her college life has improved and so has her work. She was also nominated for a “Who Will Care” award for the work she has done!

I just wanted to say thanks to Mike and everyone else who takes part in volunteering across the Borough. You are the unsung heroes of our communities and do a fantastic job! Please share your volunteering story with me by writing in the reply box below – you can make it anonymous if you wish.

If you are interested in volunteering in any capacity, please get in touch with CCVS:

Email – volunteer@ccvs.org    |    Tel – 01206 505250    |    Web – www.ccvs.org


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