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We share stories from people taking part in the Big Help Out and explain how you can get involved and make a difference in your community.
Monday 8 May marks the start of the Big Help Out – a nation-wide effort to help people find the joy in volunteering. Up and down the country, local charities and community groups will be giving people a snapshot into volunteering, both on the bank holiday and in the coming weeks and months.
Our latest research shows that volunteer participation is still in recovery post-pandemic, so there’s never been a better time to give some time.
Here, we celebrate some of the volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations offering a lifeline to so many – and share ways you can get involved.
Sarra, a garden volunteer for St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds, is testament to the value of volunteering – for both organisations and volunteers.
Sarra started volunteering for the hospice 18 months ago and is now studying Garden Design Level 1. As part of her study, she’s been working closely with the garden team leader to transform part of the hospice gardens into a therapeutic area for patients and visitors to enjoy.
Volunteers coordinator Charlotte Hagerty explains why volunteers like Sarra are central to the hospice’s mission. “Volunteers are at the heart of what we do,” says Charlotte. “We wouldn’t be able to provide our care without [their support].”
But the team at St Gemma’s Hospice recognise not everyone can spare a few hours or days each week. That’s why they’re encouraging locals to embrace micro-volunteering for the Big Help Out.
“Sometimes getting started is the hardest part,” Charlotte explains. “We want to offer a new perspective on what volunteering means and lower the barrier to getting involved. If a person can only spare five minutes or 30 minutes, that [still] makes a difference.”
Samantha is a retail volunteer for Mencap – the UK charity for people with a learning disability. She volunteers in the charity’s Godmanchester store each week, working on the till and sorting donations.
It’s just one of the many ways people can volunteer with the charity. “Mencap volunteers provide support across the whole organisation in various roles, including retail, befriending, fundraising and in classroom settings,” Samantha explains.
Mencap’s Godmanchester store will be opening its doors for the Big Help Out on bank holiday Monday, supported by the team of retail volunteers. “There are so many things you can do in the store – from sorting donations to greeting customers and meeting new people from all different backgrounds,” says Samantha. “Come and give it a go!”
Mencap volunteers provide support across the whole organisation in various roles, including retail, befriending, fundraising and in classroom settings.
Nic volunteers on a readers panel for Asthma + Lung UK – the UK’s lung health charity. Made up of people affected by a lung condition, the panel helps the charity develop health information that’s rooted in real-life experiences.
Nic joined the panel after experiencing an asthma attack. “Volunteering, for me, is a way of sharing hope,” she says. “I believe in living a happy, healthy lifestyle. Even though a lung condition can sometimes get in the way of that, it’s important to know how to listen to your body and not see it as a barrier.”
And joining the readers panel isn’t the only way people can give their time to the charity. “The Big Help Out Day is a wonderful opportunity to find out how to get involved in your local community”, says Lucia Ciolanel, Asthma + Lung UK’s volunteer engagement manager. “By supporting our groups, clean air campaign, fundraising and research work, volunteers make a real difference to the lives of people affected by a lung condition.”
Citizens Advice offers free confidential advice online, over the phone, and in person. In 2022 the charity helped record numbers of people in crisis, needing things like food bank referrals or emergency charitable support. And volunteers were an essential part of this.
“Without our volunteers we could not deliver our service,” says Jennie Smith, the charity’s head of volunteering. “As well as giving their time, our volunteers bring different perspectives, skills and experience to our organisation and help us connect with local communities across England and Wales.”
Citizens Advice will be using the Big Help Out to promote their volunteering opportunities and encourage more people to get involved. On bank holiday Monday, they’ll be showcasing a new film about volunteering. And during the week they’ll be delivering information sessions and sharing volunteer stories.
“Citizens Advice is a great place to volunteer and there is a role for everyone,” says Jennie. “As well as the chance to make a difference, volunteering offers the opportunity to meet new people, develop skills and gain invaluable work experience.
"Many of our volunteers also say that volunteering has improved their self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing. We want people to know how volunteering at Citizens Advice benefits communities and the people who take part.”
As well as the chance to make a difference, volunteering offers the opportunity to meet new people, develop skills and gain invaluable work experience.
If you’ve been inspired by these stories, why not start your volunteering journey today? Our help and guidance is here to support you – whether you're an individual looking to volunteer, or an organisation looking to recruit volunteers.
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