I’ve been reflecting during Volunteer Week on what volunteering means to me. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s also been heartening to see a ‘volunteer movement’ with many people helping others in their communities.
I hope we come out of this pandemic with a fairer, compassionate society where we continue to help and care for each other. I also know there’s so many great volunteers out there, doing amazing things.
I’ve volunteered in various roles over the years, and I’ve gained so much from every experience. I thought I’d highlight a few amazing organisations I’ve been lucky to have become involved with.
The Simon Community
I started volunteering with the homeless charity, The Simon Community in 2019. I’m part of their StreetReads project, which brings books and reading to homeless and vulnerable people who have difficulty accessing things we take for granted. There are plans to develop a library in a hub in Glasgow, which is on hold at the moment due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have however gathered donations of books which we have been delivering to various people we look after, including sourcing some books in other languages. We’ve also been able to give children’s books to some families who need them. And we’re always on the lookout for book donations to keep our stocks up. The Simon Community also launched their #GiveHope emergency appeal. Many people and businesses have came together to help. A silver lining of the pandemic has been the eradication of homelessness, what the future holds – I’m not sure – but it has been great to see people not sleeping on the streets and occupying some of the city’s empty hotel rooms.
MCR – Pathways
I’ve been a volunteer mentor with the MCR Pathways programme for nearly four years. I meet a young girl at her school every week. Again, things are a little different during Covid – and we have recently managed to do some supervised online video chats, which has been fun. MCR has a focus on positive outcomes for the future of young people, which could involve staying on at school, going to college or university, looking at apprenticeships and job experience. It’s hugely rewarding. I was so nervous the first time I was due to meet my mentee. Would she like me? Would we get on? What would we talk about? And now four years later, she’s growing up fast, and I’m in awe of the young woman she’s becoming. I couldn’t be any prouder and I’m excited to see where her future takes her. I’ve learned so much from her. MCR Pathways says – two lives are changed by mentoring – this is true.
LEAP (Enhancing the Lives of Older People in Lanarkshire)
Leap is an organisation based in Cambuslang, Glasgow. I offered to help during the Covid-19 pandemic. They identified a need to further their reach and their remit – and they now offer a free personal shopping service to people in their area. I’ve been impressed by their organisation and how quickly they have set up this part of their operation. It’s very well organised with every detail carefully considered. I’ve helped with shopping and prescription deliveries and it has highlighted to me how many people in our communities are vulnerable and need help, and especially at the moment, where people are still being ‘shielded’.
Pancreatic Cancer Scotland / Pancreatic Cancer Action
Although I am not a volunteer, I’m constantly inspired by the volunteers I meet through the work I do for pancreatic cancer charities. Pancreatic Cancer Scotland (PCS) was born in 2010 when a group of volunteers comprising patients, carers, nurses and doctors got together to share knowledge and take action in the fight against the disease. Ten years later PCS has made huge strides and merged with another pancreatic cancer charity joining forces and a combined effort to make the 2020s the decade of change for pancreatic cancer. I’ve heard so many inspirational stories and witnessed the great efforts people go to to support the cause. From sponsored football matches, charity balls, runs, cycles, walks, theatre shows, cake sales and all manner of creative ideas. It’s very humbling, and all their efforts really do make a difference.
Manorview Hotels & Leisure Group
The Manorview Group has a charity ethos embedded into its culture. In the past three years their team has donated over £100k to various good causes. I’ve been lucky to have been involved in their charity committee. I have seen the team’s efforts grow and I have witnessed many creative ideas, along with a genuine passion, caring, enthusiasm and willingness to help and make a difference for others. It’s been inspiring to watch this grow and become part of a company culture where people are encouraged to care for others. The team get involved in everything from fundraising, organising events, donating time and raising awareness for organisations such as Scottish Autism, LAMH (Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health), SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health), Achieve More and When You Wish Upon A Star.
Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT)
The GFT is a Glasgow institution. Again, this lovely cinema is sadly affected by Covid. I’ve been a volunteer usher at the GFT. This means being there for people and ensuring everyone is safe and happy while at the cinema. It’s a lovely community, with loyal customers and a great team of volunteers. I hope it’s able to open again soon and when it’s safe to do so.
2014 Commonwealth Games
The 2014 Commonwealth Games was a great time for the city of Glasgow. I volunteered at swimming at Tollcross where I was part of the press and media team. I met many lovely people and found myself hooked on a sport I knew virtually nothing about.
ChildLine is probably the organization that started my volunteering pathway. I was a volunteer telephone counsellor for a number of years, in the early 90s – before social media was a ‘thing’. I’m sure much has evolved in ChildLine during the years. They will have adapted to the many changes that technology has brought, its many advantages and also the disadvantages with increased risks and pressures on young people.