Volunteering – what’s it all about?

Before starting this week’s blog I would just like to say a few words following the death of Michael Meacher MP, a man I, and many others in Oldham, counted as a true friend.

Michael was someone I confided in, trusted and held in great affection.

The borough has lost a political giant – an extremely popular man who helped countless numbers of people over the 45 years that he served his constituents.

On behalf of everyone in the borough I offer our sincerest condolences to his wife, Lucianne, and all his family and friends.

You can pay your own personal tribute to Michael by signing the online Book of Condolence.

Books are also available in the Civic Entrance (formerly Rochdale Road Reception), Chadderton Wellbeing Centre and at Royton Town Hall during normal opening hours.

vaoSince becoming Leader of the Council one of my priorities has been to build strong and dynamic communities that have the means to support themselves.

If we can achieve this then it would enhance the quality of life for all the people living in our neighbourhoods and districts.

We can achieve this through working together to develop and strengthen an already existing voluntary community.

Volunteers not only make a huge contribution to communities across the borough but they also set a great example to others. Just think of how many of the borough’s sports groups, charities and support groups wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for volunteers?

A good example is next week’s Big Bang Bonfire up at Oldham Edge. Since we brought back this free family event council staff have given up their own time to man car parks, guide people to the event and help ensure people enjoy the night safely.

On November 8 we’ll also be holding Remembrance Services across the borough, again volunteers have helped organise them and will be on hand on the day while we pay our respects.

That’s why this week I’ve asked David Sharples, Volunteer Centre Manager here in Oldham to ‘guest blog’ and explain why he gives up his time to volunteer and tell residents a little bit about the opportunities on offer…

In my job as volunteer centre manager at the Volunteer Centre I get asked all the time why I give up my own time to volunteer.

So let’s look what is volunteering really about? Well I think volunteering is doing something that is a benefit to other people, it’s something that involves giving time freely and when I say freely that means that it’s unpaid. (I will come back to the unpaid bit soon). 

I know that can all sound a bit ‘worthy’ and for those people that know me, they’d be the first to say that I wouldn’t do anything without there being some sort of reward!…

So firstly let’s be clear – unpaid means no cash but I firmly believe there are lots of benefits to people who volunteer. It’s a great way to develop new skills, and improve our employability; it’s a way to get references and something really important to put on a CV.

But there’s more to volunteering, it makes you feel good about yourself and that can have a direct result on our mental health and wellbeing in the same way that physical activity and stimulation can improve our physical health and contribute to weight loss. Those are just a few good reasons to volunteer and there are many more.

Does volunteering make a difference to our communities and especially to the communities in Oldham? Yes, volunteers make a huge difference to people in Oldham – there are more than 25,500 volunteers working across the borough and they contribute more than 79,100 hours of their time per week in the borough. [1] 

The work of volunteers allows charities and groups to increase the support they can offer, and it’s amazing that there are more than 800 organisations in Oldham. 

Volunteers also offer a different perspective to paid workers and benefit many other public services, for example as part of a project we’ve recently been running with care homes to help local residents.

One of the great things about volunteering is that’s it open to everyone, you need to have skills to offer but everyone has something they are good at.

The volunteer team can always help you think about what you like doing and support you to find an organisation that you could volunteer with – we call that brokerage. 

Some people face additional barriers to volunteering and we are really keen that we offer as much support as we can to remove or at the very least reduce these barriers. That’s why we run a series of projects aimed at people with low levels of English, with those from offending backgrounds, the long term out of work, and for people with health conditions, for example..

There are so many volunteering opportunities and on an average week we have over 200 opportunities to choose from. 

There’s stuff to do in the great outdoors, opportunities in sport, a chance to experience volunteering with families and young people – not forgetting looking after animals.

If you have a specific interest in caring for people with dementia we have an exciting new project that we are starting to recruit volunteers for now.

After all that you must be asking how can I start volunteering?

VAO’s Volunteer Centre provides routes for 1,000 individuals per year to volunteer across Oldham and through securing additional resources from charitable trusts target help for people that may face additional barriers to volunteering and employment.

Now all you have to do is contact Volunteer Centre Oldham on 0161 633 622 or check out www.do-it.org.uk  or visit us at 12 Manchester Chambers, Oldham, OL1 1LF.

Thanks for listening,


[1] Borough of Oldham State of the Voluntary Sector 2013 research Sheffield Hallum University; Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research

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