Harnessing the power of volunteering to bring about change
As a representative of Castle Point Climate Action group I recently took part in the on-line annual general meeting of the Castle Point Association of Voluntary Services and I was reminded, if I needed reminding, that a great deal of fantastic work is going on at grassroots level and the huge number of people who are harnessing the power of volunteering to bring about change.
During these difficult times, neighbour is helping neighbour, the vulnerable are being looked after in the local community and food banks and homeless shelters are popping up all over the UK. I recently came across a woman living on her own who had been presented with four dinners on Christmas day!
The good news lies just below the surface
It seems to me that, in spite of all the stories of gloom and doom in the media which could easily give the impression that people are generally uncaring and selfish, the good news lies just below the surface which is why I set my New Year sights on seeking them out …
The National Council of Voluntary Organisations represents over 16,000 voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and social enterprises across England. They report that more than 19 million people volunteer through a group, club or organisation and that more than half of the population gets involved in informal ways of volunteering.
In a rich country such as ours, it’s astonishing (depressing) to know that some families are at risk of malnutrition or even starvation and it is often only through the work of voluntary bodies – and campaigning footballers! – that children are not going to bed hungry.
At a national level the Trussell Trust whose aim is to ‘Stop UK hunger’ report that today they:
‘support over 1,200 food bank centres across the UK. Together, we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, while also campaigning for change to end the need for food banks in the future.’
That’s thousands of volunteers who are making sure food banks are there during these difficult, difficult times. There are so many examples of the power of volunteering, but perhaps the role these food banks play is one of the most pertinent during these challenging times.
Let’s take a look at what is happening in my S E corner of Essex …
Southend Association of Voluntary Services, for example, has 390 member groups and estimates that there are around 2,000 charities, community groups and faith groups based in the area.
Food banks, befriending, community allotments, counselling for troubled teenagers – a few projects which are just the tip of the iceberg – if you’ve any doubt that there is an amazing number of people out there who give their time to help others just take a look at the SAVS community directory.
There are strong forces at work
So, if you are feeling depressed at the apparently sad state of our world just remember all those wonderful people who, together, play a crucial role in harnessing the power of volunteering; that strong forces are at work, not only to help people who are struggling just now but also campaigning to bring about the changes we desperately need.
And perhaps, if you are able to and not doing so already, you might like to consider volunteering yourself. The power of volunteering on a personal basis should not be underestimated!
Next, I’ll take a look at businesses – and there are many – who are making big changes in the way they work to minimise their impact on the natural environment and to generally bring us to a more sustainable future.