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Give to Receive: Why Volunteering Matters

Published on 28 September 2023 12:09 PM

Volunteering is a mutually beneficial endeavour. For organisations, it plugs gaps in their workforces; for volunteers it’s a chance to learn new skills in a professional environment. But more than that, volunteering connects people. It reinforces purpose through collaborating to work towards a mutual cause. In a social landscape where loneliness and mental illness pervade, it’s important to have these vehicles that bring people together.

An article published on the website of Cambridge University Press called `The Therapeutic Power of Volunteering’ explores how there’s an increasing body of research on the positive impacts that volunteering seems to have on people with mental illnesses.

As a charity, volunteers play an important role in our service delivery. They are part of our fabric. And they cover a wide area of support, which helps our work at every level.

Some of our volunteers come in to our day centres to help make tea, lunch, and be a friend for our service users. They develop close bonds with our service users and staff. In addition to becoming integrated into the ethos of Age UK Manchester.

Volunteers have also helped with us tending to the gardens at our centres. With their help, our service users have enjoyed cups of tea in Spring afternoons in the garden. Their contributions also extend to knowledge sharing. For example, volunteers have given training in IT literacy.

The wonderful thing about volunteering is that, as referenced at the start of this piece, is that it isn’t just charities who benefit from volunteering. We have seen the impact of volunteering on the people who volunteer with us. We have seen that volunteering with us gives people purpose. And it provides them with access to a community that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. This case study on one of our volunteers is one of many similar examples of how the impact of volunteering can give volunteers purpose:

`Mr W is a volunteer at Crossacres. He has been attending, as a volunteer for approximately 6 years. Before he became a volunteer he was his wife’s main carer and a recovering alcoholic. Following his wife’s death in 2016 Mr W felt lost and alone. He found out about Crossacres through his sister, who was trying to find things to keep Mr W busy and help him to avoid slipping back into old habits with drink. Mr W Started as a volunteer at Crossacres in 2017 and attends 5 days per week. He is a valuable asset to our centre and works really hard helping in the kitchen and with activities with the clients. He arrives early, every day, sometimes before the gates are open and he stays until 2.30pm. He has now been dry for 9 years and has told me that without his voluntary role here and the support he receives from the other volunteers and staff, he may well have turned back to drink.’

Volunteers help charities, and volunteers help charities. It’s a reciprocal relationship. In my last post, I referenced how social value has become important to companies and consumers. Tied in to this is the growing importance of voluntary work. To both the non-profit sector and the private sector. This has been accelerated by technology. It’s easy to build partnerships in 2023, with apps such as On Hand and access to platforms such as LinkedIn.

Age UK Manchester seek volunteers to help us support the lives and independence of the elderly in Manchester. Have you got a spare couple of hours a week? Are you a dab hand with IT or gardening, or want to befriend our service users? We would love to hear from you, e-mail to register your interest.