Volunteering

Modern life can be increasingly hectic, with work, family and social obligations. However, if you have any spare time to volunteer, this may have an abundance of benefits for you and your community. The charity sector is recognising the need to be flexible with volunteers, and some have introduced micro volunteering (no commitment volunteering). The right volunteering choice may have countless benefits for you, including: finding new friends, connecting with your community, helping your mental and/or physical health, learning new skills, taking on a new challenge and improving employment opportunities.

Volunteer Scotland promotes thousands of volunteer roles available in Scotland on their website. These include activities, such as: befriending, fundraising, providing support to children and young people and helping at events. The website also includes a detailed section on volunteering, which you can click here to find out more about. Additionally, it may help to regularly check organisations and charities that you may be interested in volunteering with, for new vacancies. .

My Volunteering Journey

The Open Rights Group – Support Council

I volunteer with The Open Rights Group (ORG). The Open Rights Group is a UK based digital campaigning organisation, working to protect the right to privacy and free speech online. They have over 3,000 active supporters, and are a grassroot organisation with local groups across the UK – including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

They challenge:

  • Threats to privacy by both the government through the surveillance of our personal communications and private companies, who use our personal data to increase their profits.
  • Threats to free speech through the criminalisation of online speech, online censorship and restrictive copyright laws.
Hosting an ORG event at Glasgow University.

I have a passion for digital rights, predominately making people more conscious of the legislation regarding government surveillance in the UK. I also have a keen interest in Wikileaks and Edward Snowden’s revelations. For my masters I completed a dissertation on how satisfactorily has the question of internet surveillance – the balance between citizens privacy interests and state security – been addressed by the Investigatory Powers Act (which I received a distinction for). I furtherly enjoy volunteering for ORG, and have encountered new challenges, and have learned a lot on their current campaigns and upcoming campaigns. If you would like to find out more regarding ORG’s Support Council, please click here.

NSPCC – ChildLine Counsellor

I volunteered for ChildLine, as a ChildLine counsellor for just under two years. ChildLine is a vital service available 365 days a year to support children and young people (until they turn 19 years of age) with their worries or concerns. As a volunteer counsellor, you will be trained and will develop the skills needed to offer comfort, support and practical advice to children and young people. I had an extremely positive experience volunteering with ChildLine. The staff are incredibly helpful, and the team of volunteers encourage and support each other. The most rewarding part of the role was that I felt a made a positive difference to a child or young person.

There were almost 280,000 ChildLine counselling sessions with children and young people in 2017/18. The top three concerns included mental and emotional health, family relationships and suicidal thoughts and feelings. There were also over 22,100 counselling session where a child or young person’s main concern was abuse (this includes, sexual, physical or emotional abuse and neglect). A child or young person will contact ChildLine every 25 seconds, but unfortunately not every call can be answered. At least one in four children or young people will hang up before someone is able to pick up the phone, because they currently don’t have enough volunteers. If you would be interested in volunteering, or would like to learn more, please click here.

Research:

I think it is important to empathize the importance of researching the organisation you are thinking about applying for in depth. Ensuring that this role is for you, and that you are able to commit to the hours. As some volunteering roles are more flexible than others. Sometimes it may not be until you start volunteering that you realize the time and commitment needed for that role.

Another idea is to help at your local food bank. I have started to help out at my local food bank, and have really enjoyed the experience. An estimated 34% of children in Glasgow were living in poverty in 2017. The school holidays can also put a lot of added financial pressure on families.

In 2015, volunteering was worth more than £22.6bn to the UK economy. This is equivalent to about 1.2% of the GDP. Around 1 in 5 people in the UK aged 16 and over reported that they had participated in some kind of volunteering more than once in 2014-2015. Research undertaken by Jump also concluded that volunteering is associated with higher levels of wellbeing, better general health and fewer mental health problems.

Micro-Volunteering

Micro volunteering means easy, no-commitment, cost-free volunteering, that takes less than 30 minutes to complete. There’s usually little or no formal agreement needed before a volunteer can get started, and no expectation that the volunteer will return.

The main benefit is flexibility, as society has expressed that the biggest barrier to volunteering is lack of time. The majority of micro volunteering is done online, which means that you can volunteer from the comfort of your home.

Be My Eyes

Be My Eyes is a free mobile app with one main goal, to make the world more accessible for the blind and low-vision people. The app connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers and companies from all over the world through a live video call. Be My Eyes users can request assistance in over 180 languages making the app the biggest online community for the blind and low-vision people, as well as one of the largest micro-volunteering platforms in the world. Be My Eyes currently has an exponential 2,724,061 volunteers, and the number of blind and low-vision people using the app is a staggering 143,787.  

I have downloaded the app, which is free to do. The app has a high number of volunteers (which is great), so you don’t often get called to help someone. However, when you do you can help a blind or low-vision person with various tasks, which include: reading a label in a shop, reading the expiry date on an item, directing the person to a shop or identifying a colour for a person. The app is very easy to use, and it only takes a few minutes to help someone with their day.

Hans Jørgen Wiberg is visually impaired and got the idea of a volunteer video service for the blind using the great cameras in todays smartphones. From that idea he founded Be My Eyes. This is his Ted Talk.

Post Pals

Post Pals is a small charity run solely by volunteers, who are dedicated to making seriously ill children and their siblings smile by sending of cards, letters, little gifts, support and friendship. They support children aged 3 to 17 in the UK. Fearne Cotton is currently the patron for the charity, supporting the charity regularly.

This is a really nice way to brighten up a child or young person’s day. A lovely idea is to send a birthday card. If you enjoy crafts, you could make a card for a child or young person, taking into consideration their likes and interests. I enjoy using Funky Pigeon or MoonPig, and can choose from Disney, Peppa Pig or Football cards. You can also send post from anywhere in the world.