Reasons why you should volunteer in your community

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Volunteer: Kirkstall's Jim Corah.

By Jim Corah

My name is Jim and I am a volunteer in my community. I am approaching eleven years volunteering in Kirkstall and west Leeds, and thirteen volunteering in Leeds. I volunteer with Kirkstall in Bloom and Kirkstall Art Trail.

I am also a community reporter for West Leeds Dispatch and regularly write about Kirkstall and Rodley. I wrote about my experiences volunteering for a West Leeds Dispatch article back in December 2016 and there’s been some changes since then that make it even more important for you to get involved in community organisations near you.

There are many reasons why people get involved in volunteering, from wanting to improve their community or develop new skills, from wanting to come together to wanting to make new connections within the community.

Volunteering has always been a way I can give something back to my community. I believe that volunteering should be fun and it should provide you with an experience.

I have been incredibly lucky with the experiences I had gained through volunteering, the people I’ve met, the projects that I’ve contributed to, the skills I’ve learnt. I never expected that volunteering would be so rewarding though here I am, making plans ahead of Kirkstall Art Trail returning in the summer and Kirkstall In Bloom looking to install benches, wondering what will happen next.

There are many different roles that you can volunteer with. Volunteering isn’t just gardening or physical endeavour, it can be tasks like helping update a website, create guides to help improve accessibility, or simply being there to help discuss plans. And there many, many wonderful plans.

Back in December 2016 my article was about four reasons why people should get involved in volunteering. My concern was that many organisations were not encouraging enough new volunteers to keep going.

Things have not improved since then. The Time Well Spent 2023 report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations revealed that volunteering in England was at a historic low. A UK Giving report from the Charities Aid Foundation also in 2023 revealed that only 13% of people said they volunteered in the year to the report’s released, down from 17% pre-pandemic.

Kirkstall In Bloom is a small volunteering group. In 2023 we were lucky enough to attract five new volunteers, and we’ve not yet started promoting our volunteer opportunities. The next sessions for Kirkstall in Bloom will be the Jubilant June Session on Saturday, 1 June 2024 and the Joyous June Session on Saturday, 29 June 2024 (you wouldn’t be able to guess who names the sessions for social media).

Kirkstall Art Trail is in a similar position. It takes eight months of organising and planning to put on the free event over the weekend of Saturday, 20 July and Sunday, 21 July 2024. In 2023 there were three volunteers and we winged it, thankfully 2024 sees eight volunteers in the committee adding to our preparation. During June Kirkstall Art Trail will be looking to meet potential volunteers.

If you are wondering about how to get involved with volunteering I would say the best course of action is to check social media and news sources like West Leeds Dispatch.

Having spoken to friends and colleagues about volunteering and one of the things that gets mentioned is not knowing how to begin. Part of my joy with Kirkstall in Bloom is learning about gardening. Even after all these years I still need a helping hand identifying a flower or knowing the best technique. Kirkstall in Bloom taught me that enthusiasm is more valuable than experience. Don’t worry about making mistakes, just get involved and take part.

Supporting community organisations doesn’t always mean being present at every meeting and event. If you see a post on social media engage with it and share it. There will be opportunities to donate, Kirkstall Art Trail in particular will be seeking support this way.

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