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Volunteering: A Panacea for Social ILLS?

Volunteering in the Community Add+vantage module, the debate on whether volunteering is a panacea for social ills is intriguing. Volunteering is a hub for meeting new and interesting people, and after enduring the gruelling self-isolation and social distancing, taking on a volunteering role could help many of us re-learn to connect with our communities.

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As one who teaches the Volunteering in the Community Add+vantage module, the debate on whether volunteering is a panacea for social ills is intriguing. Over the years, successive governments in the United Kingdom (UK) have initiated different volunteering schemes for different reasons. The Good Neighbour Campaign was initiated in the 1970s to galvanise the public to play an active role in their communities, and the Big Society initiative was established with the aim of “putting power and opportunity in the hands of members of society”. In all of this, the focus has been to impact society in some positive manner.

Whiles a research commissioned by the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) indicates that young participants of the department’s Work Experience Scheme have been encouraged to seek mainstream employment thus leaving the benefit system, some researchers argue that volunteering does not necessarily empower individuals to be employable, and that employability can be attributed to different factors.

In the face of these arguments and counterarguments among Third Sector stakeholders, one thing that has become clear is the potential of volunteering to bring about change in our communities. There are many case studies that point to the fact that volunteers can reap substantial benefits through volunteering.

In the current post-COVID era, individuals have the opportunity to build networks and connect with other people and the community through volunteering. Volunteering is a hub for meeting new and interesting people, and after enduring the gruelling self-isolation and social distancing, taking on a volunteering role could help many of us re-learn to connect with our communities. The just-ended Coventry City of Culture event presented a platform for trainers and city hosts to interact and prepare for the eventualities of the event. At one of the training sessions which I attended, the City Hosts who had subscribed for training had varied professional backgrounds and their desire to support the community in their various roles was inspiring. The bubbly conversations that took place was not just refreshing but also enlightening.

Volunteering has also inspired some amazing stories, and Ruth, 38, has a story that shows how a voluntary role can help in one’s career advancement. After volunteering for the Citizens Advice as a Gateway Assessor, Ruth has moved on to become a manager at the Solihull Council and tells how the experience learned in her volunteering role has helped to make her an efficient manager.

The advent of COVID-19 has meant a shortfall in funding for charities, and this shortfall could have a crippling effect the on ability of charities to support vulnerable individuals and communities. The efforts made by the many individuals to raise funds to support charities should not go unnoticed. BBC podcast host, Deborah James, 40, who is suffering from stage 4 bowel cancer has shown great courage and the over £4 million raised through her campaigning will serve as lifeline to charities to create awareness about bowel cancer and its prevention.

 

 
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