Celebrating the tireless work of Cambridge's volunteers this Volunteers’ Week
When Julie Wilson quit work she was given the chance to continue supporting the Cambridge community of which she was so proud.
By becoming a volunteer, the 61-year-old could carry on working with the families in Chesterton who meant so much to her.
“I was drawn to coming back and maintaining the relationships that I knew,” she explains.
Julie is one of millions of volunteers across the country, who are celebrating Volunteers’ Week, which runs until June 7.
“I love this community and they’re really interesting to be part of,” explains Julie, as she sits among a group of mothers at Brown’s Field Community Centre.
Julie worked as a nursery nurse in the health visitor team in Chesterton from 1996 before moving to St Neots and eventually giving up work in 2011.
For the past eight years, she has volunteered one day a week with the King’s Hedges Family Support Project at the community centre.
“I’ve known Taylor since she was a toddler,” she points, “and there’s a mum who has just gone home who I have known since she was a baby. It’s interesting and I’m proud to be part of this community.
“There’s something different and what I do in my role as a volunteer is family support work too.
“They don’t have to explain my story to them all the time.”
In 2017-18, 20.1 million (38 per cent) people in the UK volunteered formally at least once a year and 11.8 million (22 per cent) of people did so at least once a month.
According to a survey from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, ‘wanting to do good’ is the most common motivation to volunteer.
But many groups still struggle to find new volunteers, with research from the Third Sector Research Centre estimating that less than a tenth of the population are responsible for over half of all volunteering.
Retired chartered surveyor John Harradine, 71, has been volunteering with Phoenix Trust in Milton for the past two years. The trust provides supported work experience for young people and adults with special educational needs.
“My next door neighbour was a trustee here and when I said I was going to do some volunteering, he suggested here,” John, who volunteers once a week, tells the Cambridge Independent.
He continues: “Some of trainees have complex needs and are challenging at times, but we’re helping them to achieve things. You feel like you’re helping people to better their lives.”
Volunteering can bring people together, but it can also improve the communities it supports.
Sharon Brewer, 46, who lives in Arbury, volunteers at Fairbite in Arbury Court alongside two part-time jobs.
Fairbite is a club run by Cambridge City Foodbank that supplies food that would otherwise go to waste to local people struggling to feed themselves and their families.
“This opened round the corner and they were struggling to get volunteers, so I swapped from the office to doing this,” she says while placing labels on products in the store.
“I’ve experienced food poverty in my childhood and food banks were not around then. Just knowing that those people have one less thing to worry about for four days is an absolute bonus.
“It’s treating people with dignity and kindness. It’s very rewarding. It’s the community helping the community.”
Hilary Duncan, 56, had never volunteered before signing up to help at Fairbite and explains that there are roles for everyone.
“There are some evening shifts in the warehouse, packing boxes. So sfor ome people who work daytime jobs and still want to volunteers, there are evening shifts,” she says, adding: “The feeling is that for every box of food or bag that goes out, it’s not just for the one person that’s come out to collect it. It may be that because they have a box of tea, they might be able to invite the neighbour around. It’s not just helping one family, it can be more than that.”
To celebrate its volunteers, CCVS will be hosting an event with John Lewis Partnerships.
More information along with the volunteering opportunities available in the city can be found atvia CCVS .
More by this authorGemma Gardner