Celebrating Volunteering - National Volunteers' Week

Annika Howard

Figures released by NCVO, in their UK Civil Society Almanac 2017, show that in 2015-16, around two in every five adults aged 16 and over reported volunteering formally at least once in the previous year. To mark National Volunteer Week, an opportunity to celebrate volunteering in all its diversity, we talked to three members of the Helplines Partnership team about the organisations they volunteer with and why.

Laura Dowsell, Head of Finance: BBS UK

Laura supports the charity BBS UK as a trustee and a volunteer family support worker. BBS UK is the only registered charity supporting people with Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, their families, and carers.

Laura Dowswell - Head of Finance“Our daughter was diagnosed with Bardet Biedl Syndrome (BBS) just over 10 years ago. BBS is a rare inherited genetic syndrome affecting approximately 500 people in the UK today. The diagnosis came as a huge shock to us, as we struggled to accept the diagnosis we turned to the charity BBS UK for support and information. The support that we received during the early, difficult days was amazing. As well as supporting us on a practical and emotional level, they also enabled us to connect with other families so that we didn’t feel so alone.”

“For me, being able to use my professional skills, in my role as a trustee, to support them to get their finances stabilised and ensure the long-term survival of the charity is hugely rewarding. Volunteering as a family support worker means I am able to chat with a newly diagnosed family and offer support, it’s a privilege. Being able to say ‘I have been in your shoes and know exactly how you are feeling’ really helps them as does a big hug, and some of the families have now become good friends where we support each other through difficult times.”

Mega Arumugam, Trainer and Assessor: Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE)

Mega volunteers her time as a telephone befriender for the national organisation supporting Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE).

Mega Arumugam - Trainer & Assessor“I have always had a passion for advocating against violence and abuse, especially having worked in the past with families and children who have survived abuse. Too frequently, I have seen survivors losing the hope to live and families falling apart. PACE offers support to parents, helping them increase their resilience and reduce feelings of isolation as they survive the journey of child sexual exploitation with their children.”

“Being a parent myself, I could resonate with the fears and challenges that many of these parents feel when it comes to simply wanting to protect their children. Being a befriender, I am able to help support parents to keep going and remain resilient. Many of the parents feel isolated, they don’t feel able to talk to their friends and family about how they are feeling and what they are going through. The most rewarding aspect of this volunteering I guess for me is just being able to be the non-judgemental listening ear that they need. The families and parents, often feel that they finally have someone who listens and understands their situation and the challenges they face, trying to save their children from the grips of child sexual exploitation and in rebuilding their lives again.”

Helen Healy, Trainer and Assessor: Southwark Libraries

Helen volunteers with the Southwark Libraries Home Library Service.

Helen Healy - Trainer & Assessor“I have always tried to include volunteering in my life, I fit it around my paid work commitments. In the past I’ve volunteered with helpline services providing non-face-to-face advice and support. At the moment, one afternoon a week I volunteer with Southwark Libraries Home Library Service. It’s a service for people who cannot visit a library themselves but would like to borrow books, CDS or DVDs from the library. I highly value libraries myself, so the idea of helping people who cannot visit the library themselves, and helping to ensure this service continues despite budget cuts and redundancies, appealed to me.”

“I am given details of each user’s requests or preferences so that I can select and pack the items. Once a month, the selection is taken to the Home Library Service user by a member of the library staff who collects the items they delivered on their previous visit. For me, the most rewarding aspect of my volunteering role is helping a service to continue that is described by some of the users as “a real life-line.”


If you would like to find out more about volunteering NCVO has a huge selection of resources to help you find a suitable opportunity.

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