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Volunteering at the heart of the Samaritans

5 February 2016

One of the organisations taking part in Big Volunteer is Samaritans. They are available around the clock, every single day of the year. You can talk to them any time you like, in your own way and in complete confidence about whatever’s getting to you.

Our funding helped Samaritans set up a national training programme in 2003 and funding is currently enabling the charity to trial ‘Freecall’; a free to caller helpline across 10 pilot areas across the UK.

samaritans-training-blogWhile Samaritans are one of our most well-known charities, all of the services they offer are provided by volunteers so they are totally dependent on volunteer support. Each branch of Samaritans is its own charity and there are 201 branches of Samaritans across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

In the South West of England, Samaritans has branches in 11 different areas that need volunteers of one kind or another (Barnstaple, Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Plymouth, Taunton, Torquay, Truro, Weston-super-Mare, Weymouth and Yeovil!). The listening volunteer role is one that we most associate with Samaritans, but branches also need people to help support their IT, fundraising, publicity and even help with statistical analysis.

Angela Reynolds, Volunteer Recruitment & Selection Officer at Samaritans says:

“Volunteers are at the heart of Samaritans. We welcome and value every volunteer, from all walks of life. We currently have over 21,000 volunteers who dedicate their time to help support people around the UK and ROI to find their way, through whatever is troubling them. Although we are a national charity, every single one of the services for our callers is run by volunteers that have been recruited at a local level. Volunteers are vital to the services we provide and branches are always on the lookout for local volunteers to join their branches.

“We want to encourage more people to volunteer for Big Lottery Fund projects. We know their success depends on more than just money; volunteering can make a real difference to your own life and the lives of those around you.

If you live in the South West of England, and want to apply or find out more about volunteering at any of those 11 different branches, please visit our website. If you have any questions about volunteering please email us.”

Samaritans branches around the UK have a host of volunteering opportunities, some of which (including those mentioned above) can found on our #BigVolunteer map.

If you’re not in the South West, our #BigVolunteer map has volunteer roles across the rest of the UK.

You can also share your volunteering stories on social media using #BigVolunteer

Good luck!

Volunteering and long lasting friendships

4 February 2016

Today, as part of #BigVolunteer, we hear from a group which pairs up people with and without learning difficulties to go to gigs and other events together.

When Pete started volunteering at Gig Buddies he had no idea that he was about to make a lifelong friend.

Pete, a photographer, first read about Gig Buddies in his local paper.


Pete had not spent much time with people with learning disabilities before and was a bit nervous about whether there would be skills needed for the role that he did not have. But, he went to a lot of gigs anyway to take photos, and really liked the sound of the scheme.

“To begin with, I volunteered hoping to make a positive difference to the life of someone with a learning difficulty; giving them the opportunity to enjoy a social life that most of us take for granted.”

Pete was matched with Tom, who has a mild learning disability which means he needs support to travel to different towns. Although he receives 24-hour support in his assisted living home, Tom does not qualify for much funded one to one support. One of his huge interests is music, so he was really keen to get involved in Gig Buddies.

Since being matched, Pete and Tom have been to all sorts of gigs in Brighton and closer to home.

“Now, nine months or so after starting as a volunteer, I simply class my Gig Buddy Tom as just another friend – we go out to gigs at least once a month, but are in touch on an almost daily basis through social media. Hopefully it’ll be a long-lasting friendship.”

Gig Buddies is looking for more volunteers. To find out more about this volunteering opportunity and many others across the UK visit our #BigVolunteer map or join in the discussion with us on Twitter.

Volunteering with Leonard Cheshire Disability

30 January 2016

We’re shining a light on the volunteering opportunities we have found in London. Chris Mann from Leonard Cheshire Disability, takes us inside one of those opportunities, the Randall Close Centre in Battersea.

Female volunteer giving a disabled woman a manicureAt this time of year, many of us are focussed on self-improvement; whether losing a few pounds or trying out something new and different. A few small changes can make a big difference to how we feel. Volunteering for as little as one hour a week to help isolated disabled people achieve their own personal goals is one of the rewarding ways to make 2016 a year to remember.

Leonard Cheshire Disability run a project in the borough of Wandsworth supporting disabled people in their own homes to help them to stay well, keep active and to live as independently as possible.

The heart and soul of the programme is the charity’s vibrant Randall Close Centre, in Battersea. The Big Lottery Fund in partnership with the City Bridge Trust has funded a health and wellbeing programme, supporting more than a 1,000 local disabled people to access physical exercise and lifestyle workshops that inspire a fresh look at health and fitness options in creative ways. But that’s not all.

Debbie Harper has been volunteering at Randall Close for nearly four years. She loves being involved in the wide range of activities the Centre offers.

“There are many individuals who, like me, have branched out in their areas of interest, singing and dancing, poetry, painting, sculpture, embroidery, sewing, knitting… It makes for a more colourful life.”

Two woman sitting at a crafts table with big smiles

The Randall Close Centre is a dynamic place, supporting disabled people to take back control of their lives. We welcome volunteers who would like to share their skills and passions with disabled people, both young and old. Whether it be music, dance, cooking or sports, working with disabled people can be fun, challenging and truly change your life. Debbie says

“Over the years, I have met some very special people. I have also been privileged to hear some jaw-dropping stories! Being a volunteer at Randall Close is not always easy-peasy, but it has taught me more than I ever thought it would. It has definitely enhanced my life.”

Whatever your talent, sharing it with others is a special way to make a big difference. It is an opportunity to work with some amazing individuals and help disabled people participate more fully in the community, gaining the confidence and skills they need to live healthier, more independent lives.


Why volunteer?

29 January 2016

Make a difference – try something new, learn new skills or spend more time doing the things you love.

A few years ago, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations(NCVO)’ Emily Graham’s own resolution was to start volunteering. And so on a cold, foggy January day, she began volunteering with Refugee Action York (RAY).

Why volunteer?

Group of people at a refugee centre

Refugee Action York

Why did I volunteer? I wanted to do something new, meet new people and get to know my city better – in a way that mattered. Most people want to volunteer to improve things or help people. This is a good place to start thinking about volunteering; what sort of cause or organisation would you like to help?

I began volunteering to provide information and support to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, but quickly became involved in the wider activities. I helped with sessions for children and young people, organised events and soon felt part of the community. I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than at RAY’s bring-and-share community meal.

Volunteers tell us that they get enjoyment, satisfaction and a sense of achievement from giving their time, as well as broadening their life experiences. I definitely gained a lot from volunteering – probably more than I gave.

My volunteering experience developed key skills that I use every day in my job, like communication and team working.  If you are hoping that 2016 will bring a new job (or promotion), then volunteering can help you develop skills, confidence and explore different options. It is also worth thinking about what skills you have to offer already; what are you good at? The most important attributes, however, have to be commitment and common sense. There is definitely something for everyone.

We hear that lack of time is the main reason why people don’t feel able to volunteer, mostly due to work or childcare commitments. Volunteering can take less time than you think, with organisations offering more creative and flexible opportunities to get. How much time do you have to give? Work out how much time you have and be clear about this from the outset.

I found that volunteering helped me make time in my life for things that matter. Combine your volunteering with other passions and interests, like keeping fit, being outdoors, cooking, or fashion. My friend has just started volunteering at a community choir, because she loves singing. Pick something you care about and get started!

For more tips about getting started, take a look at our “how to volunteer” guide on KnowHow.

Find the opportunity for you

Participate in #BigVolunteer

Find volunteering opportunities through the #BigVolunteer campaign. Learn more on the Big Lottery Fund’s blog.

NCVO Volunteer Centre promo

Contact your local Volunteer Centre

If you want to find an opportunity in your local area, this is an ideal place to start. Volunteer Centres can find out what you are interested in doing, and try to match you with a suitable volunteering role with a local charity or voluntary organisation.

Search for your local Volunteer Centre on our online map.

Look online

Do-it is the national database of volunteering opportunities. You can search more than 1 million opportunities by interest, activity or location. Visit Do-it to start searching for a volunteering opportunity.

You can also look for volunteering opportunities on CharityJOB, which advertises charity jobs and volunteering opportunities. Search CharityJOB to look for opportunities.

For more information, take a look at the ‘I want to volunteer’ page on the NCVO website.

“I can’t say thank you enough”

26 January 2016

It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, Muriel didn’t have much to smile about. She barely left the house and didn’t have anyone to talk to. Thanks to Friendship at Home, a vital befriending and support service for older people in East Lincolnshire, Muriel has a new lease of life. We’ve been speaking to Muriel about the impact Friendship at Home and its volunteers have had on her life as part of our look at volunteering this month.

Muriel Keningdale, 79 years young from Grimsby


Muriel (left) with her friend Clarice who met at Friendship at Home.

When and how did you get involved with Friendship at Home?
“The Red Cross told me about Friendship at Home because I needed help around the house. That was about a year ago now.”

Who visits you and what kind of things do you do?
“Toni visits me once a fortnight to vacuum and mop the floors, but for me, it’s so much more than that. I look forward to Toni coming because I like the company. She helps me in any way she can and we talk about everything. I can’t say thank you enough, it makes such a big difference to me.”

What activities do you get involved with?
“Since Toni started visiting me, she told me about the Thursday social club and encouraged me to try it. She arranged for a volunteer to give me a lift as transport was an issue for me. I love going now and try to go every week.”

What difference has the service made to your life?
“It’s wonderful! Before it, I didn’t go out anywhere. Now I go to the club, talk to people and have a really good time.”

Friendship at Home is looking for more #BigVolunteer s. To find out more about this volunteering opportunity* and many others across the UK visit our #BigVolunteer map.

* Friendship at Home is listed until ‘All items’. Click on their name to find their location, advert and contact details.

Five top tips for involving volunteers!

18 January 2016

As 2016 gets underway in earnest – and people are still looking for resolutions that they can actually keep – Volunteer Scotland is trying to help organisations attract new volunteers.

In a guest blog, Zoe MacGregor, Learning and Practice Development Officer at Volunteer Scotland gives her top hints and advice for involving volunteers.

There are lots of things to consider when you decide to involve volunteers and these top tips will help set you on the right path and ensure that volunteers’ have a great experience.

Volunteering-ScotlandGet ready!
Take some time to plan for volunteer involvement in your organisation. Get a group together to define why you’re involving volunteers, what roles are needed and what you’ll need to put in place. Of course, there are the essential policies and procedures such as Health and Safety, Insurance, Protecting Vulnerable Groups and Expenses. Also consider what budget is needed for expenses, resources, clothing or recognition. Is there office space and staff time available to ensure the successful delivery of volunteering and is everyone confident about the prospect of working alongside volunteers? What training and induction will volunteers need in order to ensure they’re confident and ready to get started in their role?

Variety is the spice of life.
Having a variety of roles to offer will help attract a variety of people. Some volunteers might be able to commit to one day every week but others might like a more flexible opportunity to help at the occasional event or fundraiser. Word of mouth is the most successful recruitment technique but don’t forget to target your promotion in different locations to ensure a variety of volunteers. Also, invite active volunteers to join in other roles as variety is the spice of life after all!

Support volunteers
Support can be as simple as providing a role description, relevant training, expenses and a main point of contact. Plan to catch up regularly or organise group meetings, perhaps for volunteers doing the same role, for peer support. Volunteers are also well placed to offer feedback on how things could be improved and will appreciate the opportunity to reflect on how they’re getting on in their role.

Recognise volunteers
Recognition is closely linked to motivation. For example, one volunteer might want to get work experience for their CV so may appreciate a reference, while another volunteer might prefer a presentation from their peers. Don’t forget to recognise the efforts that staff put into making volunteering a success!

Make it fun!
No matter what you put in place, it’s important that volunteers enjoy their time with your organisation!

These top tips will ensure a positive experience for all volunteers. You can find more guidance on the Volunteer Scotland website.

For advice and guidance about volunteering in England please visit the NVCO website.

Big Local and volunteering’s rewards

15 January 2016

As #BigVolunteer gathers pace and we continue to shine a light on projects we fund that are looking for volunteers, Ellen Burns-Pearce, shares her #BigVolunteer story. Ellen is 29 and a volunteer for Scotlands and Bushbury Hill Big Local

“I got involved with Big Local because I wanted to start a mental health support group. I had been a carer for my mom when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was traumatic and lonely, it was hard to reach out for help and I didn’t want to burden my mum with my worries about her health. After she was in remission I found myself asking – could I help anyone who was feeling the same isolation and fear that I had as a carer?

I applied for funding from Scotland’s Big Local and was given £1,000 to start up the S.I.T. (Someone is There) Project. We offer friendship, understanding and a listening ear. Members can talk freely with the strict policy that whatever is discussed never goes any further. The support group started with three people and now we help around 13-20 people per week.

Volunteering in my community has been challenging but also rewarding. What I find most rewarding is the feeling of making a difference. A few hours a week is nothing, yet in those hours I find that you can help people so much. Some people who come to S.I.T. are lonely, scared of rejection and very isolated, but gradually, they share things they have never told anyone before and make friends.

The rewards are not only helping the community but helping me personally. Our service users often thank me for being there for them, but it should be me thanking them! They have given me a purpose and they have taught me that even if life is hard you can always find a positive. I’ve learnt how to listen without judgement and how to accept the things I can’t change but also how we can change things together.

Big Local gave me all these opportunities and because BigLocalblog_squareof that I wanted to get more involved. I am now in the group of residents that makes decisions about how Big Local funding is spent to improve life for everyone on the estate. Seeing your community grow and knowing you have played a part is something to be proud of.

I would recommend volunteering to anyone. It can be about becoming someone’s friend or laying the foundations for changing someone’s life. You are constantly learning new skills even if at first you don’t realise it.

You don’t think you can volunteer? There’s only one thing you need and that is self-belief. From there, amazing things can happen.”

Big Local is an exciting opportunity for residents in 150 areas around England to make their community an even better place to live. The programme gives residents in each area a minimum of £1 million and a range of support for up to 15 years to make a positive difference to their community.

The residents of Scotlands and Bushbury Hill started Big Local in 2012 and they have £1m to spend before 2027. Their priorities include children and young people, crime and safety and health. So far they’ve formed a Charitable Community Benefit Society to lease the local community centre over the next 25 years. This has saved a vital asset from closure and Big Local funding will be used to renovate the centre.

Big Local is managed by Local Trust.

To find volunteering opportunities in your local area visit our Google Map and follow #BigVolunteer on Twitter and Instagram.


We’re not accepting new applications to list projects on our #BigVolunteer page and map; but you can still list your volunteer opportunity with Do-It.

Welcome to Big Volunteer

13 January 2016

These first few weeks of January can be a gloomy time of year. The Christmas decorations have all come down, the alarm clock is back to going off when it’s still dark and the summer holidays are a long way off.

However, it’s also a time for making plans and looking ahead. It’s the start of a new year and an opportunity to make the most of that “clean slate” feeling and do something really great in 2016.

Two people gardening - representing #BigVolunteer


Charities do a fantastic job of highlighting the need for volunteers at Christmas, but many projects need volunteers all year around. From spending just one day clearing the pathway in a local community garden to becoming the trustee of a local charity, there are all sorts of opportunities for people to get involved and make a difference in their community.

One project in need of volunteers is Grimsby based Friendship at Home, a charity helping to combat isolation and loneliness in older people. They say:

“Our volunteers are the backbone of our charity and are vital to our cause; without them we would have no way of offering our services to the elderly in North East Lincolnshire. We are always on the lookout for more volunteers, as the demand for our services is constantly growing!”

And it’s not just the projects that benefit. Sixty-four year old Linda Fowler volunteers in the kitchen for Kingstanding Food Community in Birmingham:

“I’ve met many new people through working in the cafe and made new friends. I feel much more positive and proactive about my life now; as though I have better employment prospects.”

Throughout the month of  January, we want to help link our funded projects looking for more volunteers with local people looking for an opportunity to give something back.

How can you get involved?

If you want to volunteer visit our our Google map and follow #BigVolunteer on Twitter and Instagram to find opportunities in your local area. Once you’ve found a project you’re interested in you can contact them directly.

We’re not accepting new applications to list projects on our #BigVolunteer page and map; but you can still list your volunteer opportunity with Do-It.

Happy volunteering!


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