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Fabian French: Why celebrating volunteers is important for UK Community Foundations

07 Jun 2018 Voices

As part of Volunteers' Week we are running a series of opinion pieces on volunteering. Fabian French explains why UK Community Foundations supports programmes to give people the confidence to get involved in volunteering.

Imagine our society without any volunteers. No one to take the refreshments trolley in hospital to patients. No one to drive elderly people to lunch clubs, giving them a chance to get out of the house. And no one to help run the youth centres that are a lifeline for some young people. 

That’s why volunteers’ week is so important. To celebrate and thank those hundreds of thousands of volunteers who make such a huge difference to us all, and also to encourage more people to volunteer. 

As Community Foundations we believe in the power of volunteering. Not just for the benefits it brings to society but also for the benefits it brings to those who volunteer. That’s why we run programmes to help people get involved in volunteering. 

But it takes confidence to take that first step to becoming a volunteer and in Sunderland it was a local swimming group that made the difference. Volunteer-led local group Khushi applied for funding to take a group of Bangladeshi women and their children swimming. Due to cultural issues the group could not use ‘public pools’ and needed to swim privately. The funding allowed the group to privately hire a local pool and instructor to teach the women and children to swim. 

Since attending the swimming club, two participants have gained confidence to volunteer at a local school, four women have started college and three have gained employment locally. 

There are 165,801 voluntary organisations in the UK, many of whom rely on volunteers. We know through our work with small, local charities that most of these wouldn’t survive without volunteers.  

But how do we make sure that volunteering is ingrained into our society and isn’t something that is seen as special and unique but is something that we all do? 

We believe it’s about starting early which is why Community Foundations are involved in #iwill – the UK wide campaign aiming to get six out of ten young people volunteering by 2020. And it’s had some great results already. In Suffolk, the local Community Foundation awarded a grant to help run the Street Reach Project which encourages youth volunteering. Coordinated by a group of young people aiming to support people in need, one team helped a 90-year-old woman who was too elderly to work on her overgrown garden; this made a big difference to the quality of her life as she was able to enjoy her garden once again. 

It’s initiatives like #iwill which will make volunteering second nature to the next generation. Which means the future of our small and local charities should be safe in our volunteers’ hands. 

Civil Society Media is hosting its Charity People & Culture Conference on 18 September 2018. For more information, and to book, click here.



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