Volunteers Week is a time to recognise and celebrate the fantastic contribution made by the millions of people who volunteer across the UK.
I started volunteering as a young adult. My mother was the volunteer co-ordinator for our local hospital and through her enthusiasm and commitment to volunteering I had an opportunity to meet a whole host of people in different professions across the NHS and meet the most amazing patients from different wards. This led me to regularly volunteer on what was then a long-stay ward for older people, most of whom had dementia. The care and support offered was amazing and I knew I made a real difference to the quality of people’s lives; with a chat over tea, looking at precious pictures and listening to stories of bygone times, all of which brought smiles, tears and lots of laughter. I became involved with our local Guides and used my volunteering to support getting my Queens Scout Award from the Venture Scouts.
These awards and my volunteering gave me valuable team and leadership experiences and skills as well as getting to know more about me and what I wanted to do with my life. I am now head of volunteering at Mencap.
During this last year, Mencap has had over 1200 volunteers supporting us, from cheering at events to being a Sidekick providing regular one-to-one support for people with a learning disability. We have also supported nearly 200 volunteers with a learning disability to contribute their skills and knowledge through volunteering, with one younger volunteer who’s been involved with the Young Ambassador program saying “Young Ambassadors helped me believe in me.”
People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides a chance to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Regardless of the motivation, what unites us all is we that we find it both challenging and rewarding. Volunteering has the ability to change lives; for us at Mencap it can change the lives of the people we are supporting and for the volunteers who give us their time.
This week is Volunteers Week. It is an annual event that takes place, during the first week of June. This year it’s running for 12 days to include the Queens 90th birthday celebration.
We want to make it the biggest celebration of volunteering we have ever seen. We are encouraging as many people as possible across Mencap and our partners to get involved and showcase the amazing impact that volunteers make across all that we do.
On behalf of Mencap, I want to say thank you to all our volunteers who give so much, and if you’re not volunteering yet, come and join us and get involved.