A busy person’s guide to volunteering
Fitting volunteering around your lifestyle and other stories….
Sue Kaveney looks at the different ways to volunteer.
While most people seem to be caught up in the chaos of Summer holiday excitement, I'm incredibly pleased to be sitting down. My legs are officially 'hungover'. If I listen very carefully, I think I can hear them whimpering. My poorly pins are the result of completing the Mighty Hike last weekend – a 26 mile yomp through the Lakeland Fells in support of MacMillan cancer. I'd agreed to this after a glass (or two) of wine and had not actually appreciated what I had signed up for! After a few training hikes it started to sink in as to how hard it was going to be, but undeterred our team of 6, aptly named the 'Slow Ginners', set off very early on the big day. At around 19 miles I hit my block. My feet were burning, my hips sore and I was exhausted from the heat…but the encouragement from the fellow 2600 walkers was unbelievable – supportive, encouraging, fun, playing music word games en-route – it all kept me going! We completed the route, tired and emotional, but delighted to have raised over £2100 for MacMillan, a thoroughly worthy cause.
The 10 hours and 58 minutes of walking, plus the time sitting here now nursing my horsefly bites and blisters, has given me plenty of time to reflect on fund-raising and volunteering in general. So much goes into these events and opportunities and so many people give up their time and expertise to support them. I've always been a huge advocate for volunteering, and I've made no secret of the many benefits it can bring, both to the community and also to the individual. But in today's busy world it can be challenging to find time to volunteer – we are all too busy working, looking after our families or rushing off to the next appointment… I know many people who say they would like to help but they think they can't afford it, or that they don't have time. I completely understand the pressures that people are under so I'm continually to find ways of making volunteering easier for them and encouraging them to look at it from a different angle.
When you look at an event like the MacMillan Mighty Hike it makes you realise how many different ways you can get involved. There are hundreds of little cogs that whir round and make the whole thing work – it's just about finding the right cog that suits your timeframe and budget. The obvious one is taking part in the activity or challenge and raising money but sometimes this can be incredibly time consuming and requires a huge commitment in terms of training or practice. If you are not able to do this, could you help with event organising? Why not help out marshalling on the day? Or help to pick up litter afterwards? You could put up posters or flyers, share posts on social media. Even going along on the day and shouting encouragement to the tired walkers or runners can be priceless and can make the difference between someone succeeding or falling at the last hurdle (seeing our neighbours cheering and shouting our names brought a lump to my throat!). Everyone can play their part, no matter how much time or money you have (or don't have) and I promise you, being a cog in that massive piece of machinery will make you feel good; no doubt about it. If you can't alter your lifestyle to fit in volunteering – maybe you could find a small role that fits around your lifestyle…
I got another glimpse of this big volunteering pie (where everyone can have a piece) at the beginning of the month when I helped organise the second community and volunteer led Leg it for the Legion.. Held in Carlisle, this fundraiser saw over 300 people walk or run a 5km or 10km route around the city centre. This time I gave my legs a rest (I was saving them for The Mighty Hike!) and donned the Race Director's vest instead. As an event organiser you get a unique insight into how all the little cogs fit together. Nothing can happen if all those little parts don't work together. The amount of people involved in running a successful event or activity is incredible.
Marshalls, route planners, policemen, prize-givers, sponsors, medal makers, t-shirt printers, runners, people to lead the warm-up, promoters, face painters… even down to people to stuff the goodie bags. Each person has a role. And each role is vital. The ways you can get involved are seemingly endless… (it certainly seems that way when you have sleepless nights in the run up… ) But hang on, I'm supposed to be extoling the virtues of volunteering, not putting you off! Quick! Back to the positives...
When race day finally came, temperatures soared, marshalls clapped and we even got Lauren Smith, England Badminton player and Alan Smith, Olympic starter to fire the starters gun to start the race. It was a really successful day and all the money raised went to Carlisle & Stanwix Poppy Appeal. Thank you so much to everyone who supported the event. You're all amazing and I hope to see you there again next year.
Right, I suppose it's time I get up and get active. I hope I've convinced you to give volunteering a go. No matter how small your contribution, it will make a big difference to somebody somewhere. Go on, be a cog and make something work.
If you'd like to know more about creating a volunteer policy for your employees or simply have a chat about local causes that need support, why not get in touch?