Volunteering Adventures in Northumberland
By our Anonymous Blogger
During the course of my blogging adventures I thought I would like to look at several different aspects of volunteering. I wanted to find out: Who are the people who volunteer, why do they volunteer, what are the common issues they encounter and what types of voluntary opportunities are available?
When I began my volunteering experience all of my colleagues explained what their roles were and where they fitted in within the organisation. However, a lot of this did not sink in at the time, so it was really interesting to go out with a couple of them individually and get a flavour of their roles and responsibilities.
I recently had the opportunity to attend what I thought would be simply two community group meetings with Carolyn, our Development Officer for Projects at NCVA. What I found was that many people feel more inclined to help their own community directly and provide a service that isn’t available when they band together to provide it. This creative group work is where volunteering and community action merge.
On the day we attended the first group they were participating in their first AGM, and this was within weeks of becoming constituted. The group consisted of local people who were formally creating a new Community Arts Group. Their meeting was very well planned, and they appeared organised in their approach to the formalities of good governance (meaning the legal requirements and formal establishment of the group). As a matter of fact, during this meeting a new member arrived, who had relocated to the area, and whose prior knowledge of another community arts group appeared invaluable to the group. Carolyn reminded the group of some of the processes that they still had to complete but complimented them on what they had accomplished in a relatively short period of time.
The second group were ‘old hands’ and had been operating for a number of years. They rented a room within a rural Community Centre from where they ran a Crafts Class for the elderly and disabled. Carolyn had helped this group get started many years before but still kept in touch and continued to support them whenever the group needed it.
Whilst there however, we also had an unscheduled and informative meeting with the new Management Committee of the community centre itself. The new committee consisted of local residents, who had taken over the running of the centre to save it from closure and were working hard to improve this facility for all the residents of their small village. The committee were still in the initial stages of building a community group and still getting to grips with learning their new roles, duties and responsibilities. Members had lots of questions for Carolyn and it was interesting to see how keen they were to achieve their goals. Carolyn also had a discussion with a couple of outreach workers who were strangers to the area and were planning to e-mail local residents in connection with a workshop they planned to deliver. However, Carolyn, quite rightly, pointed out that the local community had a high percentage of elderly residents who were not familiar with modern technology and advised therefore that they change their approach to door knocking and flyer distribution.
In this age of cut backs it is important to remember those who give freely but are generally invisible to the rest of society. In fact, this experience really opened my eyes to the hard work and determination of many volunteers who work hard for their community and care passionately about putting facilities in place, or indeed keeping them.