BIG is running a campaign to encourage volunteering to beat the winter blues and help others. In this blog, BIG Scotland chair Maureen McGinn explains how volunteering, even in a small way, can be hugely rewarding.
“Mary was the person who showed me that volunteering wasn’t just about giving. I worked in an office with a vibrant community centre nearby. I lived outside the area so used lunchtimes to volunteer as a befriender in the centre’s dementia project.
After training, I was introduced to Mary, who didn’t have dementia but, lived alone with no close family or friends, and who was isolated and almost housebound.
After my first visit to her home, I shot back to the office for a sandwich before restarting work. For the second visit, Mary had made me a sandwich for my lunch and, by the third visit, she’d visited the local shops to get us a sausage roll and cake.
As the weeks passed, more thought and effort went into planning what we would do together such as outings to the local shopping centre. Mary seemed to enjoy looking after me which pleased and moved me. Making a difference to someone else, even in a small way, is hugely rewarding.
This kind of volunteering became quite addictive and over time I’ve been involved with befriending older people, mentoring school pupils and younger workers. At present I am mentoring two younger women employed in other organisations.
One relationship is informal (she just asked me to do it) and the other is with someone on a leadership development programme which requires her to find a mentor. A meeting might take an hour over coffee every few weeks. We discuss their challenges and opportunities and I enjoy being able to help, encourage and support people starting out in a new role or promoted post.
As I learned more about voluntary and community organisations through the world of grant making and funding, I saw the skills required of trustees overlapped with many I was using in my day jobs. That meant becoming involved as a charity trustee was a fairly easy move and demands on time generally quite modest, with scope to do more, if wanted. It’s been a good way to meet new people from very different backgrounds and it’s also given me real insight into the challenges and opportunities involved in running a charity.
Since becoming Chair of the Scotland Committee of BIG I’ve started to step away from some trustee roles to prevent conflicts of interest with Lottery business. So my next challenge is learning to be a Justice of the Peace in Scotland because I always wondered how that worked. I am still in training, have sat in on a number of courts and was visiting a prison last week. It’s a different form of community service but, if I’m appointed, it doesn’t look as though it’ll ever be dull!”
Interested in volunteering? Visit our website to find out how to go about it.