Little at Large: Why plucky Crisis volunteer refuses to throw in towel

The Government is pumping millions of pounds into youth volunteering, trying to combat the idea that volunteering is dull. Why is it so worried?

Mathew Little
Mathew Little

One young female volunteer who spent Christmas volunteering with Crisis lists experiences such as "getting stories from people about Indian prisons, chatting to mendicant prophets who sleep on Blackheath and being locked in a laundry room by a shift leader" - the latter to avoid the over-zealous attentions of one homeless man.

Then there was the scribbled job offer: "Just domestic work, you know, £20 an hour, and you're a student so if you're interested ..." She enthuses: "How can one turn down such flattering propositions of whoredom? I love doing Crisis; it's so interesting."

- Erstwhile sector socialite Stephen Bubb wrote a tribute to Benazir Bhutto, the recently slain Pakistani opposition leader, in the News of the World. The pair were at Oxford in the 80s, and some traits had begun to show. "She used to call me 'Bubbly', a rather obvious play on my name, but also a dig at my reputation as a champagne socialist," he reveals. Bubb used to call Bhutto "Pinkie", but can't remember why.

- Just before Christmas, nearly 300 people assembled in London's Drapers' Hall to pay tribute to one of the voluntary sector's great characters: Luke FitzHerbert of the Directory of Social Change, who was killed in a traffic accident last January. Anecdotes from friends and colleagues confirmed the restless, mischievous intelligence behind the jovial exterior.

One speaker recalled the time Luke and his wife, Kay, stood as Green Party candidates in local elections. They wore home-made green rosettes, one of which gradually shed its outer layers during the count to reveal the words "Hounslow Horse Trials - Best Mare in Show".Luke defended this as "logical recycling".

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer mathew.little@haymarket.com.

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