The value of volunteering #volunteersweek
Volunteers week started on the 1st of June and I have had cause to pause and reflect during the week on both my own career and the way in which volunteering has enriched it. I have also thought about the many ways that volunteering within Change Grow Live (CGL) and within our field more generally, adds so much value to the work we do and helps to transform people’s lives on a daily basis.
After an unhealthy period in my early 20’s – graduating, travelling and running a pub, I decided to try and do something more worthwhile. I wanted to focus on the things that were important to me: communities, people and making a difference. At that point I obviously didn’t have a great deal to offer the world of social care – other than energy, passion and an ability to form good relationships with people.
So I decided to get some experience of real work in a variety of settings and began volunteering: in a homeless person’s project, a Bail Hostel and a residential drug rehabilitation centre for families. This experience was invaluable to me – it gave me an insight into where I wanted to go, introduced me to colleagues and clients who made a lasting impression (and in some cases remain important people in my life) and also showed the impact that a ‘voluntary’ relationship can have on people’s lives.
In March 2015, 1112 Change Grow Live volunteers contributed 38,000 voluntary hours in variety of roles such as counsellors, peer mentors, social workers and service user representatives. In the same period, 44 volunteers moved into paid employment.
Within Change Grow Live we have always valued the power of this ‘voluntary’ relationship and the benefits it can have for both the volunteer or mentor and the clients they work with. A recent analysis of the number of volunteers and performance in adult structured services demonstrated that contact with volunteers increases recovery rates and reduces the numbers of people re-presenting to treatment.
Some will argue that the notion of volunteering undermines professionalism and ‘if a job needs doing, then someone should be paid for it’. These are legitimate concerns, fuelled further in an era of austerity. However volunteering, connecting and giving remain powerful forces of human nature and we should always fight to preserve them.
25 years later I still volunteer as a Trustee of Community Works in Brighton and Hove and within my community, help to organise an annual street party and social events.
Read more from Mike Pattinson's Blog - 'Why we decided to #banthebox'