It’s Volunteer’s Week this week, the annual event on 1-7 June which celebrates the contribution of volunteers to our society and charities around the UK.
In autumn last year, the Chief Economist at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane spoke about the Social Value of Volunteering and highlighted both the value that volunteers contribute to UK society (an estimated £50 billion) and that there really is an army of volunteers out there. About 1.25 million people volunteer of all ages, backgrounds, genders and ethnicity.
That’s a huge number and this week is a particular time to say thank you to volunteers in the UK (and internationally) to recognise the contribution they make. As the home of skilled volunteering, last year Reach placed 710 skilled individuals into charities of all sizes, working towards causes which make our society better. Here in the Reach office itself, we are proud to say that we too have our own (albeit smaller) army of skilled volunteers who are the engine of the organisation. We have individuals who support staff with a wealth of talent and experience in all departments, from recruitment to design to IT, who contribute towards making Reach a success.
I spoke to one of our volunteers Tony Swabe who is in our volunteer placement and advisory service, about why he volunteers. This is what he said:
1) Where do you volunteer?
As well as volunteering at Reach since 1998, where I am part of the volunteering matching team, I also volunteer with two other organisations B’Nai B’rith, a Jewish charity and I am on the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at an Immigration Removal Centre. I also chaired a training charity for ten years. My background is in teaching and HR, particularly industrial relations, so my volunteering roles use some of the varied skills I have developed throughout my career.
2) Why do you volunteer your skills?
I volunteer for personal reasons; I like to keep busy and make myself useful but I also volunteer for organisations where I find the cause particularly interesting and important. Working with others is a vital aspect of my volunteering and I find that at Reach we work with a vast source of interesting and varied people. I really support the aims of the organisation and this is important to me with my volunteer work as I want to help it succeed. My volunteering also brings me social involvement where I feel like I can make an effective contribution and – particularly with my IMB work – I can help to ensure people are treated fairly and decently.
3) What aspects do you enjoy most?
You can’t underestimate the benefits of the social contact volunteering brings. I found this especially important when I first retired; volunteering now brings me contact with the working world which keeps me stimulated. It means I mix with people of all ages as well as people outside my family and social circle. I’ve found that volunteering brings me more focus and purpose in life; it’s what life is really all about. You feel as though you are making a valid contribution which is very important.
Tony is just one of the 25 or so volunteers who regularly give their time to us.
Big thanks go to all our volunteers who provide so much expertise, time and resource both to the Reach cause, and beyond.