Friday, 31 July 2015

The payback from volunteering.

In recent weeks, the York Press has featured articles on volunteering. Maxine Gordon wrote about opportunities in Pickering and Malton. York Cares was featured in the business pages.

I read a small item about York Hospital Trust asking for volunteers. I thought it was only the WRVS who had volunteers in hospitals, but not so. There are three hundred volunteers spread around YHT hospitals, doing a variety of work. Experiencing a personal ‘lightbulb’ moment, an application form was submitted.

This reminded me of a train journey in Spring 2011. I was returning to York from Gateshead, after attending an interview to be a London 2012 Games Maker.  The Games Makers initiative was not widely known at that stage and the couple sitting next to me were not aware of the volunteer army planned for London 2012. A goodie bag attracted their interest.

The man’s reaction was a surprise. It was one of incredulity. He was a business man in his forties and could not believe that there were people who were willing to work at London 2012, without being paid. He thought it was some sort of Government scam. I explained that having been impressed with the volunteers at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, I wanted to volunteer at London 2012 and didn’t mind what I did or where. 

As it turned out, my time was spent at Eton Dorney Rowing Lake, where I enjoyed four of the most extraordinary weeks of my life. By the end of London 2012, most people had heard of the Games Makers and were aware of our purple and pink uniform. People were asking to how to become one. Too late. 

After The Games, I thought about that man on the train and wondered if he remembered our conversation. Did he now understood the nature of volunteering?  Did he visit an event and see the Games Makers working? Though he wasn’t alone, there were many sceptical people. A GP told me that one his colleagues couldn’t understand why he wanted to work for no pay in his holidays. This was until the second week and then he’d been in touch. The penny had dropped.

My personal motivation is to give something back to the hospital that saved my husband’s life. While not having everything I want, I am fortunate to have everything I need and believe that most of us can help in the community in some way and not ask for a monetary reward.

There are numerous opportunities for volunteering, if you look for them.  Age is no limit. Working in historical houses, in gardens, the countryside, in transport, sport, cooking, sewing, reading, writing, helping people of all ages or working with animals. It’s limitless. Visit the library, read the local papers, look at cards in shop windows. This is a good place to start: 

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill


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