Doing Good for Nothing

Volunteers Week is almost over for another year and what better way to celebrate than … volunteering Doing Good for Nothing with Ecclesiastical… you heard it doing good for absolutely nothing!

Around 35 people have been brought together in Birmingham to achieve incredible things in only 1.5 days. We have three charities who have each come prepared with briefs for us to solve. With a range of challenges from branding, website design and development, financial planning, recruitment, promotions and communications there is a lot to do, but I am confident that with a room filled with passionate and skilled individuals… miracles will happen!

Planning is underway

If anyone has any ideas or contacts we would love to hear from you… let me introduce you to our charity challenges…

Continental Star is a Sport and Community Club that seeks to help those within the community that are often marginalised and considered by others as hard to reach. Alongside football teams for the under 7s to the over 35s Continental Stars also run homework clubs and provides valued support for lone parents and the unemployed.

The Challenge!

  • Completely run by volunteers they run on very little funding, but providing all their services for free they need to find ways to cover costs and become financially sustainable.
  • Any ideas or contacts on corporate funding sources, ways to develop financial sustainability or crowd funding ideas for the club are hugely welcome.
  • The website needs work as do their external communications to create a better community spirit…
  • Any thought on how we can improve the website and their communications ??

Web Design has begun...

The Jericho Foundation is a charity foundation which has developed a group of social enterprises that work with disadvantaged individuals and helps them overcome barriers and become fulfilled, skilled and employed. They run 8 different enterprises including Community recycling, Wood recycling and Re-use or Funky Junk!

The Challenge

  • How can they make their products more saleable? Who are their biggest competitors? How can they communicate more effectively … not small challenges, but we can help them with new branding, sales plans and unique communication formats.

Funky Junk

The Stritchley Food Coop provides fresh and affordable food to over 40 households in Stritchley… not a small task but their role is about to increase massively. They have been offered a physical shop space on the high street… those that know about my hatred for Tesco’s will know I WANT and NEED this organisation to succeed! Can you help?

The Challenge

  • They need to put together a solid business plan and financial forecasting to enable them to grow.
  • As with all these organisations volunteers are a key part and going down a similar path to The People’s Supermarket the members who offer 4 hours volunteering to run the coop in exchange for at cost and discounted food are integral to making it work successfully and sustainably.

So folks … can you help at all? We have just over one day left and are looking for contacts, ideas and general speedy whizz bang action to help us achieve these challenges in the time we have available.

Who wants to help us do GOOD FOR NOTHING?!

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Jubilee Celebrations… Community at it’s best!

Happy Volunteers Week Everyone! 

I hope you are all having a fun, volunteering filled week and celebrating the incredible, inspirational achievements of volunteers across the country and the globe. I’m sure this year may have seen even more people getting involved in volunteering thanks to a weekend of celebrations for the Queen’s jubilee.

Jubilee Family - Me, Mum and Sisters

Living in London it would have been easy to stick around and watch the million pound celebrations and events taking place up and down the river and city… but it is times like this when I just have to head home to join in with my village celebrations. There is nothing more humbling than seeing people in the village of all ages get together to organise events and celebrate our heritage… we really don’t do it enough in the UK.

Barn Dancing in Birchover

Having two homes up north I celebrated two different village jubilee parties, one in Birchover, Derbyshire and the other in Norton Disney, Lincolnshire. Both shining beacons of community spirit, supporting your neighbour and volunteering at it’s best.

Norton Disney Jubilee Celebrations

Home baked cakes, volunteer musicians, a barn dance, a hog roast, a raffle, pass the parcel (for the little ones) and lots of merriment. What more can you ask for?

Queen Elizabeth, I salute you, thank you for your service but most of all thanks for creating an opportunity for the UK to get together and celebrate everything we love about our country.

Tea and scones anyone?

Visit the Volunteers Week website to find out what is happening and how you can get involved.

Tomorrow I am off to Birmingham to volunteer for Ecclesiastical do ‘Good For Nothing’ More info soon, but follow #ecclesgoodfornothing on twitter to find out more…

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*Sponsored Post* – An Alternative to Volunteering

It is clear I love all things volunteering, in fact some might say I am a bit of an addict! However I am attempting to cut back (a little) to leave room for a couple of other things I have really wanted to do that don’t come under the heading ‘volunteering’ … I am traitor to my own blog I know, but sometimes you have to try something new.

Which is why, on top of my new job, I have a new challenge in my life…  Getting into the RAF Reserves.

So far I am just at the online application stage and am waiting to attend an information day in April as you can read about on She Gets Around.

But why have I decided to join the RAF Reserves and why is this not volunteering?

  • First and foremost…You are paid. So instantly this wipes it off the volunteering list. I would be lying if I said that wasn’t part of the attraction. Truth is earning money is nine times out of ten going to increase your motivation to do something (she says hoping fellow volunteer addicts won’t send me hate mail). I was recently asked if I would be interested in getting paid for one of my volunteer roles … well I’m not going to say no… volunteer addict or not. To get paid for something I would do for free anyway is going to increase the chances of me finding the time to help.
  • I love a challenge. Whether it is a meat eating related challenge, a climbing mountain related challenge or a new challenge in a job, I never turn down the chance to test my levels a bit further. Joining the RAF Reserves is possibly going to be the biggest challenge to date and I can’t wait.
  • The opportunities it will create. With top quality training in a vast range of areas and meeting new equally motivated and challenge loving people from all different walks of life you never know where it will lead.
  • I want to get fit (er). I like to think I am marginally fitter since returning from travels but I am still a long way to go to be at a fitness level I want to be at. People shouting at me to ‘Get down and give me 50’ is the only way to make me actually do it… that is what they do right?

People get involved in the RAF for loads of reasons and here are a few of mine. If you think this sounds interesting you can find out more by watching the video clip below. Another way to do your bit to support other.

This is a sponsored video though all thoughts are my own and as with She Gets Around, the timing of being asked to write a blog about the Reserves right after I applied was just perfect.

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Leap Into Volunteering

Those regular excuses for not volunteering ‘I’m too busy’ ‘I don’t have time’ … they are all myths!

You always have time to do something, no matter how small and with our free day tomorrow, we really have no excuse. An extra day in the calendar, that we don’t usually have, 24 more hours of TIME that thing you can’t just make … all for you!

Preparing for Bali Children's Project party

So what are you going to do with your extra time?

Silly question! VOLUNTEER of course.

Well if working I am sure you are seeing this as an extra day of work that you probably aren’t getting paid for but you still have the evening free, so why not spend it searching and applying for some interesting volunteering opportunities. Here are a few websites to start you off…

  • Do It – The national database for volunteering opportunities around the UK. Search for loads of
  • Brightworks – loads of simple task based volunteering opportunities, many that can be done from your computer at home. Sign up to complete a task and support a charity.
  • Guardian and local newspapers – loads of volunteering opportunities are promoted daily. Also check out the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network for news, advice and info direct from the voluntary sector.
  • CSV – Community Service Volunteers offers training, volunteering opportunities and loads more to help you get into volunteering.
  • Thames 21 – they have a whole host of one off events cleaning up London’s waterways that you can get stuck into straight away. In fact their are three events on the 29th!
Above are just a handful of organisation who can help you find volunteering opportunities, go on leap up off the couch and get involved 🙂 

What will I be doing with my extra day this leap year? Well after a day’s work I will be heading home for a Skype catch up with Joyce in California who set up the Bali Children’s Project in Bali who I volunteered with at the end of last year. I am continuing to help them from afar and hope to soon be telling you guys more about how you could head to Bali to volunteer with this brill charity.

lots of Leap year love and smiles x

Smiles all round - Teaching in Nepal

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*Guest Post* – Voluntourism, Is it worthwhile?

A great blog post by Bec Ordish, Founder and Director of the Mitrataa Foundation in Nepal. Read on to find her thoughts and advice on choosing the right volunteering opportunities abroad.

Rose, teaching English with the house mothers at Bal Mandir

As voluntourism increases in popularity, so do the inevitable scams which seek to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. This is particularly the case in countries like Nepal where they are well-versed in ways to part tourists from their money! And to be fair, why not take advantage of a new industry when foreigners are throwing money at them! I think the tourists are just as much to blame for these scams –I do get frustrated that it is the disadvantaged people that the tourists often pat themselves on the back for helping out that are the ones who suffer the most. Don’t be fooled – it is often the middle-men making the money out of exploiting these people with little of it filtering through to the genuine people in need. So there are definitely steps that volunteers can take to be prepared and to avoid the scams.

  • Work with well-respected organisations or ones that have been recommended to you by someone you trust. Don’t trust the recommendations online – many of them are not legitimate! There are some wonderful organisations out there but there are plenty of scammers as well. Many are actually not deliberately scamming you, they are just not effective in giving you the experience you are expecting to have.
  • Do your research – find an organisation which fits with your passions, interests and skills. You will find that you feel more comfortable jumping in and sharing your passions than if you just sign up for anything that comes along. Often in these situations, you get shown a place and told to “entertain the kids” or “teach the people English” with little more guidance than that. If you are doing something you are interested in or experience with, it’s much easier to just take control and have a go!
  • Be clear about what you expect from the organisation and what they expect from you. I have seen so many examples of people who come over saying “I am going to work in a children’s home” or “I am going to teach English to refugees”. I ask them how many children or people they will be teaching, what ages they are, their level of experience, how many hours a day/days a week will they be teaching and they have no idea. When they get here, either nothing has been organised and they spend half of their time here sitting around while their hosts try to work out what to do with them or they end up replacing an existing teacher who takes the opportunity to go on holidays and the volunteer ends up teaching 7 days a week for full days with no support.

If you are working through a consultant or agency, ask for contact with the organisation who manages the projects you will be working on too. Many consultancies don’t like this because they are worried you will do them out of a commission. Just reassure them that you need confirmation of the organisation to help you prepare etc. I had one this week where a volunteer consultant came to me to inform me that he had a new volunteer starting a our children’s home next week for a month. I told him, as I had told him many times before, that we didn’t accept volunteers from these agencies. He said, “But I have already told them all about you from your website and they are expecting to come.” I explained to him that he’d need to find somewhere else for them to go and that he had no right to lead them to expect they could work with us. It turned out that he had already taken money from these volunteers who were very angry, thinking we had taken the money and then refused to have them. I explained to them very clearly that we had never indeed received their information or CVs and that our process would never have allowed us to accept money for placing them. It’s not how we work.

There have also been increasing examples I have come across of people thinking they were coming over to teach English or work in a school/home/women’s group only to find out they were to be translating documents (or at least correcting the interesting English interpretations of translations) for a tourist agency or someone’s personal business. You might be happy to do this as long as it is what you were expecting to do!

  • Be realistic – if you are coming for a couple of days and just want to cuddle some babies or play with some kids or paint a mural, then there are plenty of homes or organisations that will allow you to do that. But don’t expect to change the world or make a significant difference to them in that time – in fact, in many cases you are making it worse for them as they are kept in more pathetic looking situations to inspire you to hand over more money. Just remember that many before you and many after will come and do the same thing – in fact we’ve seen the same murals painted over and over again as a very enterprising organisation whitewashed the walls, accepted donations for painting murals from foreigners who went home with some great photos and feeling like they had made a huge difference, and then the organisation whitewashes them again and waits for the next group to take money from! But what’s the harm if everyone gets what they want!

Some of our kids at Bal Mandir with a Spanish organisation that taught them dance over the Dashain holidays

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To my love… Student Volunteering Week 2012

I’m in love and I have been for quite some time.

Tomorrow is a day when we show that special someone we care about how much they mean to us and how much we love them. To show my true love how much they mean to me, I am dedicating this post and all my love tomorrow to that special someone, those inspiring people, that incredible network…

Student Volunteering

Next week will see the 11th annual Student Volunteering Week where students and workers across the UK will be celebrating and promoting the brilliance of student volunteering. This week has been the most important part of my calendar since I first attended the Student Volunteering Conference back in 2007 and this year is the first time since then I won’t be involved…

So I am somewhat making myself involved and you can be involved too, as a charity, student, business or like me, as an ambassador for Student Volunteering Week 2012

Thousands of students across the country volunteer in their local communities and all over the world alongside their studies throughout the year, but this week gives us a chance to stop and think about all they have achieved, whilst also encouraging more students to get involved.

Student volunteers in Plymouth with the Mayor*

So what is happening and how can you get involved with this wonderful week?

  • If you know a brilliant student volunteer nominate them for the Matt Spencer Award (DEADLINE TOMORROW 14th FEBRUARY). This is such a brilliant award in memory of Matt Spencer an inspirational student volunteer and will be a huge honour to the student who receives it.
  • See what events are happening in your local area. There is a list of many of them on the Volunteering England website and most universities and colleges around the country will be doing something during the week.
  • Talk about it – make sure people know about the week, shout it from the hill tops, blog about it, tell all how fab student volunteers are.
  • VOLUNTEER – even if you aren’t a student get out there and do some volunteering, though the week is focused around student volunteers, we always want to encourage more people to volunteer and create more action in our communities.
  • Check out all the fab things Student Hubs are up to supporting student volunteers and updates from last week’s brilliant Student Impact Conference.

Student volunteering beach clean up*

I may not be as closely involved as past years with National Student Volunteering Week but I am still shouting from the roof tops … or at least from my blog, twitter and all that…




*Thank you to Brian Fichardo (a fab student volunteer) for use of his photos

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Volunteering to organise music festivals around the world? Sign me up!

Could you find a cooler place to volunteer? The Moringa Tree offices are filled with awesome music buffs, creatives, volunteer obsessives and inspiring innovate people. Their offices in a church in Hackney are buzzing all day with new ideas flying around the room, chocolate and cake in abundance and exciting talk of festivals and fundraising adventures around the world.

The Moringa Tree was set up by Swatee, Chris and Tom last year and is already storming ahead from strength to strength. They have had festivals in Ghana and music events across London. Their aim is to organise music festivals in developing countries around the world, investing the profits into the local communities, whilst also promoting the arts and cultural exchange. And most importantly happiness and well-being for all.

I am currently helping out with various projects and just HAD to tell you all about what they were doing and ways you too can get involved.

Website Developer – they are currently looking for a website developer to help with a new website for their record label. Yes they have a record label. Helping bring new international stars into our conscience.

The Super Seed ChallengeFundraising isn’t all about cake sales and sponsored marathons at Moringa. The Super Seed Challenge is a Super fun fundraiser to help raise money for their festivals and projects. You get a magical Moringa Tree seed and start a creative trade-chain to see what the Moringa Tree seed can turn into.

The Drop – coming soon this crazy adventure sees you being dropped somewhere in Europe with no phone, money or map and having to find your way back to the UK. I definitely want to get involved in this one and lots more information on signing up will be coming soon.

There are loads of other ways you can get involved as a volunteer and they are always looking for new people to become a part of their team. Whether it is organising the festivals and other events, helping raise funds or designing their websites.

I know this organisation is going far and can’t wait to see it continue to develop.

Maybe see you at their next festival in Ghana in December??!!

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Selamat Hari Natal – Party Day!

It is less than week to Christmas and though they don’t celebrate Christmas here, as with anywhere they are always up for a party and so organise a party is just what I did.

Fun lessons... honest!

I woke at 6am to meet Iluh and head to market to buy food to cook a Balinese feast for her family and neighbours. We had a brilliant morning, shopping, cooking and eating. I learnt some new Balinese recipes first hand and got to see a chicken move from live chicken to several tasty meals in the matter of a few hours. I have blogged in more detail about the chicken and cooking on my other blog.

A Balinese feast

After lunch it was time to prepare for the party for the local kids. Knowing I was to be volunteering in Bali around Christmas time I had pre bought a few bits of entertainment while in Australia, thinking Christmas crackers, santa hats and decorations wouldn’t be so readily available in a country that didn’t generally celebrate Christmas … I was right.

*If you are heading to volunteer during a holiday period, even if they don’t generally celebrate that holiday they are normally more than happy to learn and celebrate with you. Bring a few things from home to help celebrate … Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.

Pre party prep

Three girls had already joined me and helped with preparations, making paper chains for decorations and blowing up balloons (no party is complete without balloons). The rest of the children arrived at 2 and we started with some lessons … LESSONS for a party?!

Don’t worry my lessons are fun! Nothing but games when in reality they are learning numbers and the alphabet. I will blog soon about my latest fun learning games.

Musical statues

After a few learning games, we did more crafting Christmas trees like my last day at Kindergarten, snow flake making and then it was really party time with the classics ‘musical bumps’, ‘musical statues’ and ‘pass the santa hat’ (a classic) all to the sweet notes of my Ultimate Disney album.

Pass the Santa hat

The kids had a blast and I couldn’t help but grin and laugh throughout the afternoon, their smiles were infectious and I could have kept dancing with them all day.

Christmas cracker hats

We ended with some biscuits, chocolates and drinks and I gave them each a Christmas cracker and had to explain exactly what you did with them… having never seen a Christmas cracker before. Sadly the Australian jokes inside went over my head let alone over theirs but the hats and stickers were a definite success.

I want to go back to this day already...

I am sad there aren’t many more chances to hang out with the kids while in Bali, but excited about getting stuck into my next challenge of improving the volunteer package for future BCP volunteers.

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Christmas Crafting

It was my last day at the kindergarten today, the class seemed busier than usual with 40 children, perhaps they are all eager to get their end of term reports and the free breakfast, or perhaps word had got out about my amazing singing… Perhaps not.

Showing off their creations

As with the last day of term in the UK, it is all about fun times, so cutting, sticking, colouring and of course singing was the plan for the day.

Getting crafty

After spending several hours cutting out paper Christmas trees last night I couldn’t wait to get the kids to start decorating them with the various bits of shiny glitter, tinsel and pens. Luckily I was organised enough to have a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ Blue Peter style example to show the kids, as they started by looking at me blankly. With Christmas not being a tradition here, putting tinsel and glitter on a paper tree does seem slightly odd. Still they soon got into it and made a brilliant collection of brightly coloured trees.

My wonderful class with their Christmas tree creations

We all sang ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ … several times and then to say thank you to me they sang all the other songs they know in English, including ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’ ‘hello, how are you’ (classic) and various other brilliant renditions. I hope they will be singing … or shouting the ‘I love you’ song and ‘ten little numbers’ I have taught them to the next volunteer that visits.

There is always a cheeky one..

Selamat Hari Natal everyone.

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A Free Tour… Is this Volunteering?

Today I was asked to take a trip to the Bali hot springs and students who were studying various tourism modules at college would be my tour guides. In exchange I would give them a chance to practice their touring skills, their English and would report back to their teacher on how they did and any thoughts for improvement. Not a bad volunteering assignment.

I expected there would be a couple of students taking me on my tour, but in fact there were seventeen. SEVENTEEN tour guides all for me … wow.

My brilliant group of tour guides

They walked me to the hot springs, asking me about myself, what I thought to Bali and then all about the springs, including the temperature, purpose, beliefs etc. They had definitely done their homework.

I had a swim in the springs… slightly awkward with seventeen teenagers looking on, but they were very polite and eager to answer any questions I had. After the springs we walked to a Hindu temple for a few more facts and then I was filmed as they asked me more questions and I quizzed them on Balinese culture.

Photo time

After all the chats it was time for the compulsory 5000 photos of me with each of them and in groups… lots of smiles… my jaw is pretty much stuck in smile position right now 🙂

I hope they gained more than just a few photos from our morning together and I will be reporting back that they are an exceptional group of young people, a pleasure to be around and I wish them all well in their future careers.

Saying goodbye to my new friends

The rest of my day was spent preparing for class tomorrow … Christmas crafting day and proofreading letters written by local kids to be sent to their penpals in America.

There is often always more you can do then what you originally sign up for when volunteering, so do ask and you never know what adventures you could be going on…

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