Tag Archive | volunteering

Getting That Good Feeling: Why I volunteer

I have been a volunteer on and off for various causes since I was about sixteen. I love the good feeling volunteering gives me and knowing that I managed to do my part in some small way for society. I have spent time helping my local youth club, fund-raising for my local hospital, working in charity shops both serving customers and sorting stock in the back room, as a steward for a regional theatre, helping with administration for my local children’s centre and taking part in one off fund-raising events.
Reasons Why I Volunteer
• Enhance my CV: One of the reasons I first started volunteering as a teenager was to have something to put on my CV as work experience. Even now when I have paid work experience, volunteer work means my CV stays up to date, with current experience in the work place. It shows how keen I am to work right now. It also makes me look like a nice person that people would want to work with.

• Get a Job Reference: A lot of job applications ask for a work place reference, which is hard to give when you have never worked before. However after volunteering I was able to use my manager as a reference.

• Gain Confidence: Volunteering has given me the confidence to apply for more kinds of jobs. It has helped me feel more confident in interviews and comfortable in a work environment. It has also given me self confidence in my abilities proving to myself and others that I can work and actually do a good job despite having various disability issues.

• Skills: I have learnt a lot of new skills thanks to volunteering. Also it helps me keep skills I have developed in the work place up-to-date.

• Help with Job Interviews: Volunteer work helps give me real work place experiences to talk about in job interviews.

• Gets Me Out/ Pass the Time: Unemployment can be very boring and tedious at times. Volunteering gives me a reason to get out of bed and leave the house some days. It also helps fill the time in a more interesting way than sitting around at home often does.

• Be Part of my Local Community: Volunteering makes me feel a part of something, like I am joining in with society and being of use to my local community. It helps make me feel less isolated.

• Make Friends: I get to meet new people and make friends who live locally.

• Pride in Myself: As someone on benefits without paying work, I have been accused of sponging off society and being lazy. At least with volunteer work I can say I do something with my life and can prove I am not just being lazy. Also it helps me feel like I sort of ‘earn’ my benefits in some small way and that I have dignity.

• Helping Others: Most importantly when I volunteer I like to be helping a charity or cause that I truly believe in. It is no good volunteering my time for a cause I do not care about as I will do the work less well and not enjoy myself so much. I often like to help with smaller local causes as I can see the effect my work has directly on my local community.
There are many types of jobs you can do as a volunteer, so no matter what your skills or interests there is likely to be a job out there for you. Volunteer roles can include:
• Fund-raising: Either as a one off event such as being sponsored to do something, or in a charity shop.
• Supporting People/ Befriending: One on one support for vulnerable people such as the elderly or special needs. Sometimes this can include helping people to eat meals when in hospital or to have someone to go out to places with. It can be as simple as just checking up on someone and being there so they are less lonely.
• Administration Support: Helping a charity with office based jobs.
• Teaching: Sharing your skills with others either one on one or a group.
• Supporting Events: Helping at community events or fund-raising events with things like first aid, car park attendance, serving drinks, or setting up stalls.
• Driving: Helping people to go places such as hospital transport and community transport. Collecting and delivering furniture for charity shops.
• Handy Person/ Gardening: Helping elderly or disabled people with basic DIY tasks such as small repairs, safety measures like fitting rails and smoke alarms and security measures. Sometimes help with gardening maybe required such as mowing the lawn or cutting back hedges.
• Giving Advice: Either face to face or by telephone for charities such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK or Sure Start Children’s Centres.
I would highly recommend volunteering to anyone. You can take it up as a regular thing like I do helping two charities one afternoon a week each or if you do andot have as much time to spare you could take part in a one off event. I guarantee that you will gain from doing it in some way.

Links to find a local volunteer job near you or learn more about volunteering:

Do-it Helps link you to volunteer jobs using a simple online form

Community and Voluntary Services Can offer you advice on volunteering and link you to local places looking for people to help.  They can do this on the phone or face to face in a volunteer centre and some Volunteer Centres also have online links.

http://www.volunteernow.co.uk/ Another site to link you to volunteer jobs, also has advice pages about volunteering

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Keep Volunteering Voluntary

This is a piece I wrote for a campaign group called ‘Keep Volunteering Voluntary’.  They believe that forcing people on job seekers allowance to do forced ‘volunteer’ work or face benefit sanctions is wrong.  They, like me, truly believe that volunteering is a good thing, but only if you choose to do it.  What if you are sent to work for a charity that supports a cause you do not even believe in?  What if the work you are forced to do effects your health or mental well-being as it is unsuitable for you?  I wrote to the charity with my experiences of the forced work scheme as I was so shocked at what happened to me.  They then asked me to write a short blog about my experiences which they published on their website.  This is that blog:

On its website, key provider of welfare to work programmes, Pinnacle People claims it “can be relied upon to do the right thing”. Does that include leaving someone with the worry of sanctions over Christmas? Here’s an account of workfare in charity shops:

“Work Placements, as part of Mandatory Work Activity, were sold to me as a great opportunity to learn useful skills, gain valuable experience, enhance my CV and help my local community. Instead of seeing these schemes as something you’re expected to do in return for JSA, I began one with a positive and hopeful outlook. Well, it wasn’t long before I realised I’d been completely misled.

My first placement in a local charity shop, which was meant to go on for 6 weeks, lasted all of two days. The problem was they had far too many willing volunteers in the shop and frankly did not need forced ‘volunteers’ from the jobcentre. The shop was already using one other person on work experience and struggling to find enough for everyone to do. A private company called Pinnacle People, who deal with work placements on behalf of the jobcentre in my area, found it for me. On my first day, a work placement case worker from that company turned up. The charity shop manager made no mention of already having more than enough people and made it sound as if she could really use my help. But then she let me leave an hour early, saying as it was my first day that will do for now, when it was clear she had run out of tasks for me. On the second day she had me distributing leaflets in the area. When I got back she sent me out again with another big pile. By the time these ran out, I must have delivered one to almost every local home. I got the impression the manager was trying to keep me both busy and out-of-the-way. But there are only so many charity shop leaflets you can keep on posting through people’s letterboxes and, by the third day, she finally had to admit I was not actually needed. The manager sent me home and rang the jobcentre to cancel my placement. Instead of feeling pleased about no longer having to waste my time going there, my immediate reaction was fear that I would be sanctioned. The manager had to reassure me that she would make it clear to the jobcentre that the placement was ending through no fault of my own.

I was not sanctioned but told I’d have to go on another placement. Pinnacle People were, however, really struggling to find one. They said charity shops were either full with people from these schemes or had pulled out of them altogether. Then, with only two and half weeks till Christmas, they managed to find a shop that would take me. This one involved a much longer journey but turned out to be just as pointless as the first. Four of us had been sent there by the jobcentre to start on the same day. Even though it looked more like a jumble sale than a shop, there was no way it required another 4 people working there 5 days a week. I felt really messed around and decided to complain to my placement case worker. When she said it would help me find a job, I pointed I already had experience of working in retail, both in charity shops as a willing volunteer and in two other shops as a paid employee. So how exactly was this making a difference to my job prospects? When I kept on complaining about the placement, the case worker informed me that Pinnacle People were longer prepared to oversee my mandatory work activity. She said I was the first and only person they’d ever needed to effectively ‘ban’ from using their service. Then, just as I was trying not to laugh while feeling quite impressed with myself, she told me she’d have to inform the job centre about my attitude problem and all the things I’d complained about, which could affect my benefit.

JSA is my only source of income and my next appointment at the jobcentre was not until January. I spent all of Christmas and New Year not knowing my fate, wondering if I would soon be flat broke. But it turned out my benefit was not affected at all. As far as my advisor was concerned, there were simply no placements available for me. It seems she never heard the entire story so it looks like the case worker was just making empty threats and asserting her authority. I don’t yet know if I’ll be sent on another placement but think it’s probably unlikely. Where I live there are now few shops willing to be involved in these schemes, and we’re hardly short of charity shops in my town. I think this is a sign that campaigns like Keep Voluntary Volunteering could be working… “

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