Today marks the start of Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) – a celebration of the difference volunteers make to their communities across the country.
200,000 state school alumni have signed up to support their old schools through Future First so we regularly witness the difference volunteers can make to their local communities.
Our staff members are passionate about the value of volunteering and most of us are volunteers ourselves so across the week we will be telling our volunteer stories.
Today we hear from Katie, our London & South East Regional Lead, about her volunteering experience at Volunteer Centre Hackney.
"Elderly people have so much to share. They were alive in the most amazing of times when everything was new – music, art, technology, houses, work – the world was a completely different place and I’ve found it fascinating to hear their stories."
I recently came to the end of a befriending programme with Volunteer Centre Hackney. The programme pairs volunteers with local people who are struggling with social isolation in the community.
I was paired with an elderly couple who have lived in Hackney for 60 years. I would go and visit them once a week and we would talk about Hackney and London and how it has changed over the years. We would also chat about their life in Jamaica before coming to the UK, their children, their previous jobs, their life now and they would ask about me and my life. Sometimes I would bring over magazines and newspapers that we would read together whilst eating cake and drinking tea. Sometimes we would play games, although usually not for long – as they would rather we listen to the radio than concentrate on cards most of the time!
I originally started volunteering to gain new experiences and make better use of my time. But with befriending, it was much more to do with my Nan and how lonely she became living in London after my Grandad died.
Elderly people have so much to share. They were alive in the most amazing of times when everything was new – music, art, technology, houses, work – the world was a completely different place and I’ve found it fascinating to hear their stories.
You also don’t realise the impact you can make in just an hour a week- it can break up their day and they really look forward to it.
Volunteering makes me feel grateful, humble and energised. It’s also incredibly eye-opening. There are so many charitable initiatives making a real difference to people’s lives. I’d urge anyone to give it a try.