Early in November I made a mistake. I was asked by the amazing content team here at QCS to write a blog about volunteering. As an early Christmas gift, I agreed to help and here I sit on a dreary December afternoon reminiscing about my double life as a committed volunteer, wondering if I can live up to the team’s expectations to produce some words on the topic.
Volunteering, giving back, stepping up, coming forward: a range of positive words to describe the altruistic act of giving your time to the benefit of another. 5th December 2020 is International Volunteer Day, the ideal opportunity to raise awareness of the contribution that volunteers make to communities.
I’m a passionate believer in the power of volunteering and I’ve grown up seeing the positive energy altruism brings. As a busy mother bringing up four children, my mum volunteered constantly. She helped out at the local Brownie pack, she stepped up to help our local school providing additional classroom support and she was constantly making piles of sandwiches and cakes for functions for my dad’s running club. Her life was already busy, but she always put herself forward. She would never describe these projects as ‘volunteering’, she was simply ‘helping out’.
I went to university and lost my way as many do in the first term. After a Christmas break back in the family nest, I had an epiphany and realised what was missing and by January, I had signed up to the Friendship Project connecting students with children in the local community needing support from someone older (though not too old), to provide friendship and fun. I was hooked.
Throughout my adult life, I have been involved in so many varied projects. I’ve volunteered as a friend on the wards in the local hospital, volunteered at my local Parkrun. Sometimes the project is short lived, such as a stint as a driver and PA during the 2012 Olympics and sometimes the project is a slow, long road such as training as a rodentologist to provide a network of medical care for small pets around the UK. Sometimes I get given a uniform and formal training and a fancy car and sometimes I get bitten for my efforts. Yet I always get to meet new people, learn new skills and discover something new (no one can hear an electric car so take extra care around pedestrians and guinea pig teeth are exceedingly sharp).
And so I reflect on the challenge that 2020 has been for us all. I know I’ve volunteered less this year since many projects have been curtailed and put on hold. I’m making a conscious effort this wintertime to seek out projects that are COVID secure whilst making plans for 2021. This Christmas some of us at QCS have signed up to the Arts in Care Homes Penpals Project connecting care homes to send messages of support. Next year I can’t wait to use my QCS Giving Back days continuing to volunteer as a gardener in my local care home and I’d really like to apply to help out with Riding for the Disabled.
So, to conclude, I challenge you to ask yourself, what will you do in 2021 to give back, step up, come forward?