Volunteers' Week

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK – and it’s taking place from the 1-7 June 2015.

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Rosemary Farr is one of NCVO’s 30 ambassadors for volunteers’ week

It’s Monday and I’m off to London to work as information support volunteer at The Alzheimer’s Society head office. My role is in the Dementia Knowledge Centre, supporting the information needs of staff and volunteers.  Users might be helpline advisors answering queries from the public, research and press teams, knowledge services staff writing and updating publications, or staff in local services throughout the country. My role includes entering and updating catalogue records with new books and journal articles. Accuracy and consistency are required – if something is typed incorrectly no-one will find it on the database! All items added to the database are given subject headings, and here a basic knowledge of dementia is useful. Today’s journal entries are from UK and USA and range from technical medical research to general information for nurses.

For Volunteers’ Week I was presented with a certificate for my volunteering contribution. It’s a nice touch, which makes you feel appreciated. The Society has far more volunteers than paid staff, so it’s good practice to make people feel valued.  I collect a supply of information leaflets that I offer to people attending the awareness sessions in response to queries. Recently it was Dementia Awareness Week, with lots of sessions held, so my leaflet supplies need to be replenished.

Tuesday is some general volunteering admin. This week is my town’s Dementia Action Alliance AGM and I have helped to deliver invitations to shops and businesses. Replies need to be chased up. I am liaising with the public library on providing a book display at the meeting. I also have news from the library that following my suggestions they have agreed to compile a dementia booklist; a valuable addition to the library services. Other emails deal with arrangements for forthcoming dementia awareness sessions, and I update the Dementia Friends website with my next activities. I hope that next week I will reach 100 Dementia Friends. I post on Twitter using #Volunteersweek  to Dementia Friends, Alzheimer’s Society, Andover MIND and the local volunteer bureau (where I have also worked as an admin volunteer for a year) thanking them for my volunteering opportunities and all receive retweets and/or replies, which is great!

Wednesday sees a different volunteering role:- as ESOL teacher (English to speakers of other languages) to the local Nepalese community. I’m a qualified ESOL teacher, and find this opportunity hugely rewarding. Nepalis represent up to 10% of the population in some neighboring towns and there is much need for language training.  Our classes have around 70 people, mostly women, meeting in a small community hall, split into several smaller groups according to their language level. Some cannot read or write in English at all, and progress is slow. Teaching conditions are cramped and noisy!  The Nepalese ladies are friendly and really appreciate the lessons. We aim to give them some useful, functional language for living in our community.

Thursday is the ESOL lesson itself; I teach 2 sets of 90-minute lessons. It’s exhausting, but fun!

Thursday evening is the dementia AGM; I help with general set-up including display of library books, and conduct a dementia awareness session after the meeting, for shop staff who haven’t yet attended a session.

Friday ought to have been a bit of a rest, but my head was already buzzing with ideas for the next ESOL classes! 

That’s a typical volunteering week, using skills including administration, record-keeping, organizing, delivering presentations, time-management and teamwork, all within my own unique and diverse portfolio of interests-flexible and rewarding!

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week JVN launched its new website in the funky Brandpie PR Offices in the NCVO complex this week. Compared to the old site, this one is  more user-friendly and has added effectiveness for both volunteers and organisations. The new format presents a whole new array of tools and functions for the Jewish community and charity sector to employ whilst still helping maintaining connect and match volunteers to volunteering opportunities. The network supports 3,500 volunteers and so getting the support right is key.

 The website also allows easier navigation, especially for volunteers seeking information about JVN or the different types of volunteering on offer, and for organisations wishing to review their volunteering opportunities and access many additional resources. 

JVN want to say a big thank you to all those who volunteer! You can visit the new website www.jvn.org.uk to see for yourself what they’ve been up to. 

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Kim Jones is Volunteer Services Manager at North Devon Hospice

Our volunteers at the hospice are involved in every aspect of helping patients and their families through possibly one of the hardest times they will face; the impact of a life-limiting illness. 

This year, just like Volunteers Week, all of us at North Devon Hospice are celebrating our 30th anniversary.  We have the community to thank for this and this includes the team of people who dedicated years to making North Devon Hospice a reality.  It may surprise you to know that some of the people who were volunteering in 1984 are still volunteering here today, 30 years on!

Our volunteers play a part in every aspect of hospice life; they help make a real difference in offering support, skills, kindness, care, raising money, and above all a friendly smiling face in roles like driving patients to and from appointments, offering complementary therapies, helping in our charity shops, and helping on our inpatient unit, among other things.  The list really does feel endless.

As part of Volunteers Week and our 30th Anniversary, we are thanking our volunteers for all that they do. One celebration is a breakfast brunch for all our volunteer drivers, who ensure our patients can get to and from appointments, safely and without worry.  We cover one of the largest catchment areas of any hospice in UK and without our volunteer’s drivers, those 800 square miles of rural countryside would feel very different for the people who need our specialist care and support. 

This year, Cyril, one of our volunteer drivers took centre stage on BBC Spotlight as part of a week long series to celebrate out 30th. During this short interview, Cyril talks about his role as a volunteer and what it means to him.  Cyril is just one example of over 500 people who make a difference volunteering at North Devon Hospice every single day.  Our volunteers continue to be our most valued and appreciated assets.  Their support can be seen throughout all of the hospice’s work and their time, skills and personalities continue to be an essential part of what the hospice has been able to achieve.

Congratulations to Volunteers Week for celebrating their 30th and thank you to every volunteer who continues to dedicate time to making a difference.

Katherine Sparkes is Chief Executive at Getting On Board


When people are thinking about becoming a trustee, they often worry it’ll take up too much time.  Well the good news is that when it comes to board-level volunteering 30 is a magic number, but we’re not even talking 30 days – just 30 hours a year is the average time commitment required to support a charity and reap huge personal benefits.

30 is also a magic number as it is the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, so this year we’re not only making a big push for the seven days in June, we’re doing all we can throughout 2014 to show people that becoming a charity trustee is not as time-consuming as they may think.

Just a couple of hours a month is all that is usually required of trustees, and 86% of the board members we spoke to said their volunteering role fits in with their personal and professional life and that they found the time commitment was reasonable and brought all sorts of benefits

30 hours over the course of 12 months really isn’t that much, and you can spend it in far less productive ways:

  • Drivers spend an average 30 hours sat in gridlock each year
  • Women watch an average 30 hours of TV every week
  • Men spend almost 30 hours a year waiting outside clothes shop changing rooms waiting for their partners!

When you think about how 30 hours can easily be lost it is exciting to realise that such a reasonable amount of time can bring huge rewards, helping you improve your skills and enhance your personal growth.

Time waits for no-one, so find out about volunteering and dedicate your 30 hours this year to building a sense of achievement and reaping the benefits of supporting a charity.

Sabiyia Volunteers with Team Inspiration at Broadway Academy, City Year Birmingham

City Year UK is a youth and education charity based in Birmingham and London. Our charity supplies teams of 18-25 year old volunteers to inner city schools, to assist students and encourage them to achieve their full potential. Known as ‘corps members’, City Year volunteers act as near-peer mentors, role models and tutors to students, for the duration of one academic year.  I have chosen to volunteer full-time at Broadway Academy, Birmingham.

Being able to work directly with students on a day-to-day basis allows you to see the real impact you can have on the lives of young people. I chose to volunteer with City Year UK to make a difference to students who have real potential but may not be actively encouraged to make the most of this. When I was at school I often felt that teachers’ attention focused heavily on correcting students’ behaviour, rather than harnessing the capability of these students to achieve highly. Volunteering with City Year, I am able to work closely with these very capable students, helping them to understand and achieve their true potential.

What I like about this particular volunteering opportunity is that I have the flexibility to introduce my own strengths and interests to the students I work with, both during the school day, and through after-school and extracurricular clubs. With a background in accounting, I am able to deliver weekly A-Level Accounting revision sessions. As well as being extremely beneficial to the students, it has also been hugely beneficial for me to re-engage in a subject I have a real passion for.

Alongside volunteering in Broadway Academy, our City Year team have been working with the students to organise a Community Action Day – a local community fun day with the aims of uniting different cultures, as well as showcasing the students’ excellent talent.

Volunteering with City Year UK not only allows you to give something back but gives you the opportunity to develop as a person: emotionally and professionally.  Each Friday, after a week’s service in school, volunteers are treated to a day of Leadership Development workshops where we focus on our career aspirations, and how we can achieve these.

l encourage all young people to think about volunteering their time to help their local community – it is a rewarding experience that I would not change. Volunteers’ Week could be the ideal time to try something new or to find out more about how to get involved. We are currently recruiting volunteers for Birmingham and London to begin this fantastic volunteering opportunity in September!

To learn more about City Year UK visit http://cityyear.org.uk/.

Volunteers from across England have been selected as ambassadors for the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week

The thirty ambassadors have been chosen to demonstrate the important, diverse roles volunteers play in our communities and to inspire others to get involved. 

It’s just one way in which we are celebrating the contribution of volunteers during Volunteers’ Week.

Volunteers’ Week is a great opportunity for us to recognise and celebrate the contribution of all volunteers and the incredible contribution they make to our communities. Volunteers are an integral part of our society, and without their dedication, energy and commitment, many of the services we take for granted would simply grind to a halt

Thank you to all the 30 ambassadors who have shared their experiences with us and have offered to support the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week.

We hope they inspire you!

National Citizen Service graduate, National Citizen Service

Robert led a team turning an old office into a social space for a stables for people with special needs during his 30 hours of social action project with the National Citizen Service. He then went on to set up his own small organisation called Teenwise, an online group of people across the country who share positive youth stories. It has helped change attitudes of young people in his local area. He has also worked with his local council, helping to reform a committee that plans and carries out changes for a local area.

'… after my first volunteering experience my views changed very quick! I was hooked, I loved it. I like doing something for others and seeing their reactions'

Sport volunteer


Tanni says, ‘I’ve learned a lot by volunteering at events. I have taken entry fees, sorted race cards, been a timekeeper, and all of these activities have in small ways prepared me for the life I lead now. Volunteering provides structure, skills, both practical and social, and experience, and crucially, volunteers achieve all of these things whilst doing wonderful things for good causes.

‘My very first coach in Cardiff was a volunteer without a lot of experience of wheelchair sport - we both learned a lot from each other in our time together. I have always admired the people who volunteer because of a love of sport, they can been seen in all weathers organising and supporting and without them a lot of athletes would not have progressed’

Foodbank volunteer


Lisa recently volunteered with a local foodbank at The Brick project in Wigan.

‘Now more than ever volunteering has such an essential role in our society,’ Lisa says. ‘What struck me most was not only did the volunteers provide much needed food parcels but the difference that the volunteers made to the people who visited the food bank. People walked in demoralised. To be forced into a position where you have no alternative other than to resort to food parcels to feed your family is crushing situation for anyone to find themselves in.

The volunteers at the Brick turned around what could have been an unpleasant experience through their warm manner and the respect they gave the food bank’s visitors. The food bank not only provided a way for people to feed their family over Christmas but the volunteers helped give them back their dignity. Examples like this show the invaluable work that volunteers across the UK do and the potential volunteering has to transform our communities.’

‘Community Network’ telephone group facilitator, Age UK

Don helps facilitate group telephone calls between four to six older people for an hour every week. These provide an opportunity for people to socialise. He helps to introduce members of the group to each other and open up discussion. His role enables lonely people to communicate by simply picking up the phone. He has also helped to train other volunteers to run the groups. Age UK originally connected Don to Community Network as a result of the Big Lottery Funded ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ programme. Organisations can still now sign up to the Cascade Volunteer Training programme to get more people involved in the work Don has enjoyed so much. 

‘I have got a heck of a lot from my role of volunteer facilitator and trainer with Community Network. I enjoy all the calls I facilitate. I have had good relationships with every participant on every course, and been able to treat all of them as friends.’