When we think of volunteering, we instinctively think of the traditional model of giving a set amount of time on a regular, often long-term basis. We also consider which of the ‘big’ charities we could volunteer for when wanting to do our bit for causes close to our hearts. But the landscape of volunteering is changing, and volunteering doesn’t have to be a long-term time-heavy commitment. Karen Fisher, Volunteer Manager at MED-EL UK, tells more about her view on volunteering.
Volunteering During the Coronavirus Pandemic
This year, I promised myself I would do more volunteering. I wasn’t quite sure what, but I was certain it would be something for an environmental cause that would mean I could spend lots more time outdoors. Like everyone else, the movement restrictions that came hand in hand with the Covid-19 pandemic did not fit in with what I had imagined myself doing this summer. The circumference of my world has now shrunk to what I can reach on foot, so my volunteering has become more about what can be done feasibly, in my immediate locality, and integrated easily into daily life.
There’s plenty of informal volunteering going on at the moment. Tens of thousands of people are stepping forward to help their communities. Informal support groups have sprung up almost overnight, all led by volunteers. This shows that a time of crisis can prompt the most amazing expressions of support and solidarity, as individuals find ways of meeting local needs in practical ways. Whereas this type of volunteering might have been below the radar in the past, it’s fair to say it is firmly on the radar now and it has been great to see public goodwill reported on and celebrated in the media.
It’s the Small Things
Amongst other things, I have been walking a neighbour’s dog, picking up shopping for some elderly people in my village, posting things for people, and collecting and delivering prescriptions. These are all small contributions not seen as volunteering in the traditional sense, but they are things that take tiny amounts of time and can be squeezed into an ordinary day. The most important thing is that these small tasks make a big difference on a local level and provide some form of support (and contact) for those who are vulnerable. Being able to help in whatever way gives an enormous sense of satisfaction.
The small errands I have been running weren’t what I had envisaged myself doing, but what I’ve learnt first-hand is that it’s ok to move away from the expectation to give big chunks of time, and we shouldn’t feel disappointed if we aren’t able to. We can bring our volunteering down to a micro level and it can have really huge benefits. Time well spent is what volunteering feels like for me, and it can be very soothing to the soul.
Volunteers' Week UK runs from 1 - 7 June every year and it's a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. As a volunteer manager by profession, I work with volunteers who inspire me every day. This year feels more important than ever to recognise the support and commitment that our HearPeers volunteer mentors give to others with hearing loss.