By April of this year there will be a new unified face in volunteering as The National Centre for Volunteering, the Consortium on Opportunities for Volunteering and Volunteer Development England will merge to create Volunteering England.
I hope this will become a powerful body championing both volunteers and the organisations that are reliant on them. Here at Age Concern Gloucestershire, we use about 80 volunteers a week who between them cover a vast range of tasks, such as helping older people returning from hospital, assisting in day centres and befriending and helping in the office. To our clients they are a lifeline - they may be the only person who stops to chat to the client all week.
For many of our volunteers working with us has been a powerful tool for change in their lives. One of our volunteers has just been called a "young man" by his client - the client was 63, the volunteer 89. Another volunteer had been so ill he was forced into early retirement. He came to us wanting to pick himself up and help others, and his life has been turned around by volunteering. A third describes volunteering with us "like getting my granny back".
For those of us who also work as fundraisers we can sometimes forget the voluntary human resources in our organisations. Volunteers bring a fresh perspective, new ideas and are not tied to a wage packet to keep them from asking "why"? The passion, loyalty and dedication shown by the volunteers is what makes working in the third sector so rewarding.
My New Year's resolution is to increase the number of volunteers we have, to ensure they feel valued and to ensure our clients are well served by them. If I can do this then we will emerge stronger than before.
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