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Community ideas

Volunteers – a valuable resource

A library computers

I saw a voluntary job the other day teaching people the basics of how to use computers. Some people don’t have a clue and have never used a computer. I could do that couldn’t I? I’ve been messing around with computers for years and I own and run this website. I’ve just edited the HTML in this blog post.

Besides writing and photography. I’ve also helped a few students with their studies usually over the internet. I help writers too sometimes. I’m involved with one of the local history groups and with art. I’m hoping to review an art gallery today. This doesn’t really get me involved with people and meeting people though. Doing a few hours of voluntary work wouldn’t be rewarding in the financial sense, but it would be emotionally rewarding, because I would be meeting and talking to people.

The volunteer position that was advertised was too far away and that is one problem. Lots of organisations tend to be near the centres of power that become more centralised all the time. I don’t want to travel into a city centre. I want something relaxing. not a highly stressed 30 mile commute and regular hours.

I did ask about teaching people to write while they were in hospital. I was bored when I was in and didn’t have many visitors. A lot of people need someone to visit and the writing would give us something to talk about. My idea wasn’t received very enthusiastically. It seems I would also need to do a course before being acceptable. I need to know about health and safety. I know what those courses are like, some jobsworth tells us that we have to press the fire alarm and evacuate the building in case of fire. I’ve been in a building when the fire alarm went off and I saw smoke, so there could have been a fire. You have to make responsible decisions very quickly. I did evacuate people from the building, but then had to go and investigate the ‘fire’; because there were still people at risk. It turned out that the ‘fire’ was the smouldering remains of a petrol bomb that had been thrown through the window.  They don’t tell you about that on ‘health and safety’ courses. In a hospital you also need to understand how infections are spread and how to stay calm and help to calm others.

Volunteering is good for people who need some experience of work, young people who need something on their CV. It is also good for people like me who are past their sell by date, but haven’t gone off yet! I don’t want to travel a long way. I don’t want 9 to 5. I don’t want to mop floors or do something menial. My health isn’t good so I don’t want to walk too far. I need a job that suits me, not one that suits the organisation. I won’t be treated as cheap labour.

Lots of people are willing to help, if they are treated properly and respected. Older people have a lifetime of experience to offer. It might be writing or photography like me. I might even stray into helping people understand social media, computers or how to write a decent CV.

A lot of new organisations are so called ‘social enterprises’ set up to bid for contracts in mental health and ‘advice’. These can work and I suppose they do work in places, but many exist not for the vulnerable people they are trying to help, but for the benefit of the people they employ. Many charities are becoming like that too, they offer nice offices, salaries and pensions to their staff and offer condescending advice and free energy saving light bulbs that are as dim as the people handing them out.

I suppose I am asking a lot. I’m not really politically correct enough and I hate acronyms. It could be a good idea to volunteer and help people just because it can be rewarding for everyone involved. It’s a nice idea in theory, but has anyone seen it work in practice? I suppose it takes leadership for good ideas to work too. I can’t really see David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea working, it seems to be based on social elitism and greed. I don’t really see much leadership on a local level either. Maybe I’m too cynical?

What do you think? Are you doing voluntary work and finding it rewarding? Please share you thoughts in the comments box. You can also follow me on Twitter and send me tweets!


4 Responses

  1. Hi Mike – I’m a volunteer ambulance first responder. Unfortunately, though, our local group has now got so small that we can’t cover many shifts and we’re having difficulty finding new recruits. I do worry that it will eventually fold altogether due to loss of interest and commitment.

    We have volunteers keeping our little local library at the moment, so I think it can sometimes work.

    Know just what you mean about all the bureaucratic rigmarole people often have to go through, just to do a simple volunteering job – I’m sure that puts a lot of people off.


    August 15, 2013 at 18:02

    • Hi Sue,

      Yes the bureaucracy is just a formula for treating people like idiots and unpaid staff with fewer rights. I worked for the government and so obviously I know about fire safety and I’ve done all the training and courses years ago, I also gained a lot of experience since then. I wanted to visit people in hospital where there is lots of staff to cover medical emergencies. All I need to do is have some common sense. I have seen people sitting around doing nothing in the art gallery and the library when they’re struggling to stay open. They could encourage more volunteers. It wouldn’t suit me to sit around waiting for someone to need me. I go nuts if I’m bored! It might suit someone. I could help people with computers in the library and I know a bit about art. I help post graduate students so I’m sure I could teach too. Oh, well. I have my writing and photography. I might even mow the lawn tomorrow. 🙂

      Thanks for the comment.

      August 15, 2013 at 19:53

  2. Hey Mike,

    I do volunteer work from time to time but nothing on a regular basis. Usually for me it’s a study type group where they need volunteers for testing things out so it’s not really with the public.

    My Mom has been volunteering with MD Anderson for years now. She knits and crochets hats, scarves and blankets for cancer patients because it’s always so cold in the hospital.

    I think it’s admirable if you can find the time and the place that suits you.


    August 16, 2013 at 21:03

    • Hi Adrienne,

      That seems to be the problem. Matching skills to need and time can be a problem too. I don’t really want a fixed schedule. I would really prefer hospital visiting so I have choices.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      August 16, 2013 at 21:59

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