Thanking our army of volunteers

Where would we be without volunteers?

There’s a huge army of people giving their time to help worthy causes on a regular basis. It was recently estimated that approximately 28 million people in England have volunteered in any way in the last 12 months. About 19 million people at least once a month.

There’s not much reason to be grateful for the pandemic. But the selfless lead shown by our health and care workers and others who got us through the toughest of times certainly created the conditions for people to think about how they too can help.

The pandemic created a surge in people stepping forward to volunteer their skills. There has also been huge growth in organisations looking for people with the right expertise, for instance, to help them grow or become more sustainable.

Most not for profit organisations would not be able to do the important work they do without the efforts of dedicated volunteers.

Volunteers’ Week, June 1-7, is a time to recognise and thank volunteers for the contribution they make to our communities. It’s also a time to find out more about what opportunities are out there.

Why volunteer?

When life can be so busy with our own work, families and other commitments, what is it that drives so many people to donate precious time to helping others?

Many, of course, feel a connection to the organisation with which they volunteer. Whether that’s a local school, animal charity or fund-raising for the annual Poppy Appeal. That feeling of making a difference is very powerful.

And the wider benefits of volunteering on the individual are also being more widely recognised.

Here are some of the acknowledged plus sides.

  • Meeting new people, making friends and building community
  • Gain a sense of purpose and accomplishment
  • Building new skills, improving self esteem
  • Physical benefits, such as being outdoors or reducing stress by spending meaningful time with others

Check out this short video from the Institute for Volunteering Research on the benefits for the volunteer.

Interested in finding out more?

Have a look at these organisations and opportunities.

Volunteer Centre Manchester  publishes a huge range of available roles.

Lots of people are interested in volunteering on environmental projects, such as tree planting or helping to preserve areas of natural beauty. The Countryside Jobs Service carries up to date information on what’s available in the North West.

Reach Volunteering specialises in matching professionals with particular skill sets to voluntary roles as trustees, on either short-term projects or through an ongoing commitment.

There are many ways to help out local schools, which can be particularly appealing to parents and grandparents. Primary schools often encourage school readers and there are possibilities to get involved in after-hours clubs, on Parent Teacher Associations or, more formally, as a school governor. The Schoolrun has plenty of advice.

Animal charities are also a popular place for people to volunteer their time. The RSPCA, Blue Cross and the National Animal Welfare Trust are just three organisations always on the lookout for help.

Finally the UK Government website contains links to openings throughout the UK.

Between now and June 7, why not use #VolunteersWeek to see what’s being shared, add your thanks or maybe start your own volunteering journey.

Give a day and help yourself