Drive to attract rural volunteers

Dominic Wood

Volunteering England has opened the first of 160 rural volunteer information kiosks intended to boost volunteer numbers in rural communities.

The charity received £1m from the Home Office to create and implement the volunteer points in libraries, shopping centres, GP surgeries, village halls and museums across England.

The flat-screen computers built into information booths will have broadband access, allowing users to search for volunteer opportunities at do-it.org.uk.

More opportunities tailored to local areas will be displayed on the front page, screensaver and news sections of each volunteer point screen.

The first booth was unveiled at Volunteer Centre Sevenoaks in Kent last week, with 20 more set to be launched in west Kent and Dorset within a week.

Chris Penberthy, director of capacity building and infrastructure development at Volunteering England, said the booths would reach people who wouldn't normally volunteer.

"Large parts of the population don't have internet access or don't wish to pay to explore volunteering opportunities online," he said. "These points - many of which are in outlying villages and towns without a nearby volunteer centre - will allow people who can't afford to travel to be closer to a running tap of volunteering options."

He said the project would be a "massive learning exercise, nationally and locally", with an evaluation of its early success built into the existing budget. He said no targets had been set, as the Home Office didn't require any.

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