Volunteering changing lives

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In any town across South Holland there will be young people volunteering in schools, charity shops and other organisations that need extra help and support.

Some of the volunteers may be doing it because it looks good on their cv, gives them a chance to learn new skills and improves their chances of getting a better job or getting into higher education.

However, what is true of all the volunteers is that they continue to do it because they can see what they do has an impact on their community and is valued, according to Chris Bushby and Pete Read, co-directors of Discover Volunteering at Market Deeping.

The pair say they were “putting the flesh and bones” around the idea of the Big Society long before Prime Minister David Cameron coined the phrase.

They have a background as youth volunteer advisers but, with county council redundancies on the horizon, some years ago started thinking about translating what they were doing into a not for profit community interest company.

Pete says: “We had built up and developed what we felt was something productive and useful for young people and in one fell swoop it had gone. Particularly with young people, we felt they needed more support and encouragement and to be made aware of what’s out there on their volunteering journey.”

The pair set up Discover Volunteering just over a year ago and already receive between 850 and 1,000 visits each month to their website www.discovervolunteering.org

The website lists several hundred volunteering opportunities and allows volunteers to create their own profile which lists the various volunteering experiences they have had and the number of hours they have clocked up.

Chris and Pete say older volunteers are likely to simply see the volunteering opportunity that appeals to them and offer their services directly to the organisation. Opportunities vary from checking that footpaths are in good condition, to offering front of house assistance at a theatre or befriending blind and visually impaired people.

However, volunteering gives younger people the chance to learn new skills in the knowledge that their efforts will be rewarded – with certificates for the hours spent in voluntary work and, from the end of the month, a community volunteering qualification that gains them UCAS points towards entry to higher education.

Chris says: “The feedback we get from young people is they want to do something good. It’s something for their cv, to boost their chances of college or higher education, but once they start engaging with the community that changes and that’s not their priority. They feel good about what they are doing.”