Volunteers’ Week  – making a difference

Volunteers’ Week which runs from 1-7 June is an annual campaign to thank volunteers and celebrate the difference they make to communities.

A recent review commissioned by Volunteering England has found volunteering also has huge health benefits. It can increase life expectancy, improve mental health and keep people fitter – enabling them to cope better with illness.

Community Reporter Kerrie Nicholson sets out to discover the importance of volunteering to people in Knowle West…

South Bristol Toy Library

Committee Chair Annie Berry with volunteer Stacy Yelland.

South Bristol Toy Library has been running at Oasis Academy in Marksbury Road since June 2016 – and relies solely on volunteers to keep it going.

They are all local people either with children or an interest in children’s development and play as well as reusing resources.

Committee chair Annie Berry explains: “We had all seen the young population grow around us and felt many people could benefit from a service that allowed carers and parents from the area to share and reuse good quality toys as their children grew…

“This is one of the few volunteering opportunities you can bring your children to and they have a fun time playing while you assist other carers and parents.”

The group runs fortnightly Swap and Play sessions on Friday afternoons, where between 20 – 40 children and adults try out and borrow toys.

Annie says: “…We literally would not be where we are without volunteer-power and we’re very proud of the community resource we have all achieved on a shoe-string budget!”

For more information or to volunteer contact: hello@southbristoltoylibrary.co.uk

 

Connaught Rainbows

For Sophie Walker – a Butterfly (leader in training) at Connaught Rainbows – volunteering was initially meant to be temporary…

Sophie (29) was helping set up the new unit before she returned to work after maternity leave – but enjoyed her role so much it became permanent.

Running the unit with the help of two other volunteers, Ladybird and Bumblebee, she takes responsibility for planning, unit finances and parent liaison.

She says: “I love listening to what the girls want to do and finding activities which will keep them excited as well as teach them life skills and help them to gain new experiences in a safe space with their peers…

“I love being a positive role model for our young people… I have found my girlguiding experience so far very rewarding. I have grown as a person and am dedicated to continuing on this journey.

And giving her time is also teaching Sophie’s own children to “be generous and share.”

She explains: “My daughter is at Brownies and loves help prepare for Rainbows. She will be a great leader when she is older!”

For more information on the girlguides, or to volunteer:

https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/get-involved/become-a-volunteer/register-your-interest

Long serving volunteer

Graham Blacker is one of Knowle West’s most prolific and longest serving volunteers of nearly 65 years.

At just 17 in 1952, he trained as an Assistant Youth Leader in his local church, following his time in The Boys Brigade since 1946, where he also trained as an officer.

Now 81, he shows no signs of slowing down… Over the years in his community, he has been Church Secretary; Director (and Assistant Treasurer) at Knowle West Health Association and a trustee and volunteer at Filwood Hope for 20 years, to name but a few!

In 2013, Graham had the “great honour” of receiving The Lord Mayor’s Award to mark a milestone achievement of 60 years of volunteering in the community.

He says: “I’m trying to cut down, but I feel it gives me something to look forward to when I get up in the morning… I will continue to work as long as I can, because it helps me as well as people on the estate.”

For more information on Volunteers Week visit: www.volunteersweek.org