Volunteers’ Week 2017 – the unsung heroes

  • The value of formal volunteering is estimated to be more than £22bn in the UK, with 14.2 million people volunteering at least once a month
  • Most organisations will be able to make fantastic use of volunteers and help them thrive in return
  • Ahead of Volunteers’ Week 2017, we take a look at the value volunteers are bringing to a variety of organisations, and celebrate the work they do

Volunteers are amazing. They are the backbone of the voluntary sector, delivering an estimated value of £22.6bn to the organisations they worked with in 2015.

Data from the NCVO Almanac shows that around 14.2 million people formally volunteered at least once a month in 2015/16, a figure that has remained stable since 2001.

To mark Volunteers’ Week 2017, and to thank and celebrate the thousands of volunteers across the UK, here are just a few examples of the ways organisations have made fantastic use of volunteers.

The volunteers

Jean Bishop has been volunteering for Age UK in Hull since 1999, and at the age of 95 has now raised over £100,000. Dressed as a bee, she is well known in the city and was Fundraiser of the Year at the Pride of Britain awards in 2013. Watch this lovely video of Jean in action.

Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in West Sussex has an army of volunteers supporting patients and staff. Recently celebrating his fifth year of volunteering, Alan is just one of them. In addition to volunteering at the Macmillan Cancer support centre every Friday afternoon, Alan organises his fellow Macmillan volunteers to make sure the ten shifts every week are covered.

Alan also helps out in the hospital’s health record department, audits figures for Macmillan HQ, meets visitors to the centre and even does the occasional extra shift at the weekend if needed! “Doing good and helping people – that was my reason for becoming a volunteer. The hospital is a very special place.”

Make Lunch runs community kitchens in the school holidays to tackle holiday hunger. The kitchens in churches and schools are entirely run by volunteers. Since Make Lunch launched in 2011, volunteers have cooked and served more than 50,000 meals in over 100 locations in England, Scotland and Wales.

Long-term volunteer Michael says: “Overall, working at Thurrock Lunch Club has made be a better person. I joined when I became unemployed. This role gave me the confidence and self-belief to work with children. I now have a paid job as a maths tutor. TLC allowed me to regain my happiness and I hope that I have helped the children find happiness as well.”

The Vinspired Awards encourage young volunteers to present their volunteering work on their CVs in a different way. By logging their hours they can work up to significant blocks of time, which makes it much easier for prospective employers to understand the level of volunteering. Aiming for a V10, V30, V50 or V100 gives the volunteers a badge to work for. In 2013-14, 7,761 users recorded nearly 600,000 hours of volunteering.

Crisis at Christmas is the UK’s largest volunteering event. In 2016 more than 11,000 people offered their time across 14 sites to give more than 4,000 homeless guests meals, healthcare and practical advice during the holiday season. Watch Crisis’ video from Christmas 2016. Applications for 2017 open in October.

Endometriosis UK’s portfolio of support services, which includes a helpline, support groups, Skype support group and a moderated online community, are all run by volunteers. Most volunteers have endometriosis themselves, giving their time to help others while battling the chronic pain, fatigue and depression that are part of life with endometriosis for many women.

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women and these are the only dedicated support services in the UK. One helpline caller said: “To finally be able to talk openly and honestly about how I felt, to women who know exactly what I am going through, has seen me through many dark times.”

This Volunteers’ Week thousands of charities will celebrate and thank their volunteers. What are you doing to mark this event? We’d love to hear your stories.