Helping Others with Karen Weaver of Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service

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By the time this article appears we will be over half way through Volunteers’ Week 2016.

Always held during the first week in June, Volunteers’ Week has provided the opportunity to highlight the amazing contribution made by volunteers across the country since 1984.

This year the “week” lasts for 12 days, ending this Sunday on the day that the Queen’s patronage of over 600 charities and organisations is celebrated with a huge street party for over 10,000 guests on the Mall in London.

Locally our main celebration event is the Harrogate District Volunteering Oscar Awards Ceremony, held later in the year. I’m delighted to report that once again Coun John Fox has brought partners together to support another fantastic and humbling occasion on Friday October 28.

To mark Volunteers’ Week we have officially opened the nominations for this year’s Oscars. If someone has helped you, supported someone in your family or made a difference in your community you can nominate them right now. This is a great way to thank volunteers and also to share their many and varied stories, and it is a very simple process via www.harcvs.org.uk/volunteer.

So why do people volunteer? I decided to ask a group of volunteers who provide vital behind the scenes support to Harrogate & Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service: our board of trustees.

Their answers were as varied as the individuals themselves: to use my skills and expertise having retired; to do something useful; to make a difference; because I enjoy it; to give something back into the local community; to help support others; because I am a compulsive joiner.

I also wondered what the best thing about volunteering was for them and found that they really enjoyed the chance to meet other people and also to be part of something wider. Or as one trustee put it: “allowing the individual to make a greater contribution than they could on their own”. Trustees also mentioned the opportunity to learn from their experience and this is a common, and sometimes unexpected, source of satisfaction for all types of volunteers, not just trustees.

Getting started as a volunteer is a straightforward matter of finding out about opportunities, making contact and then getting on with it. Or is it? For some the prospect can be more daunting. How do you find out what opportunities are out there, or decide what you might want to do? This is where the Volunteer Centre at HARCVS can really help.

We list more than 500 volunteering roles with over 200 charitable groups across the Harrogate District. The roles on offer range from amateur sports coaching to visiting an elderly person; stewarding at events such as the Saint Michaels Hospice Colour Rush; updating a charity’s social media, becoming a trustee and many more besides. Sometimes people are concerned they don’t have enough time to volunteer, but you can volunteer just a few times a year and still make a big difference to the organisation you are supporting.

If you would like to find out more you can browse opportunities on our website at www.harcvs.org.uk/volunteer or phone or email to book an appointment with our advisor. The service is free and confidential and with our knowledge of local charities we can help match you to roles which suit your interests and availability.

But back to our trustees. I also asked them what advice they would give to someone thinking about volunteering:

“Now that you have decided or are contemplating volunteering do not turn back. You will never regret it - it is the most rewarding thing that you will ever do - just go for it and you will get so much satisfaction and you will realise how lucky you are yourself and how hard life is for so many”.

“Go for it! You are always naturally nervous at starting something new but I am certain you will be welcomed with open arms and soon be made to feel part of the team.”

“Think about what you want to do. Do you want to use your career skills or do something completely different? Are you happy working on your own or one to one someone needing support, or do you prefer to be part of a team of volunteers?”

“It’s not going to be a decision you will regret!”

“Give it a go! Enjoy yourself! Treat it as a learning experience!”

Great words from a great bunch of people who like all volunteers are out there doing things and getting things done for their community. If you’re already volunteering then please accept a huge thank you from HARCVS and if not then there’s no better time to get started.