Several mornings a week when I arrive at the office our FareShare van is already there, often staffed by three of our dedicated volunteers all of whom are called Brian – handy for those of us who struggle with names! It is thanks to their dedication, along with the many other volunteers who make up our FareShare team, that we are able to feed 10,000 people a week, in partnership with 120 organisations using food which otherwise would go to landfill. The three Brians are being recognised this week with Inspiring Volunteering Awards, which they will receive at a ceremony at the City Chambers here in Edinburgh. They don’t do it for the recognition but it’s great their dedication is being recognised and celebrated.
Earlier this week I overheard a conversation between two volunteers in one of our other projects. One was explaining to a third person why they volunteered; “I don’t really get on with other people and neither does he”, pointing at his pal, “but see coming here to this project, we found out we get on great and so we can go to things we would never have gone to otherwise because we don’t have to get on with anyone else”. It’s not an element of volunteering which would win an award but it’s clearly been life-changing in a way which could never have been planned but only happened because of the opportunity to volunteer.
I have written elsewhere about the huge benefit I get as a volunteer reading to Primary pupils at my local school once a month. It’s about as simple a task as you can get as a volunteer – reading to groups of young children, but it’s a real joy – always a good start to my day.
I am always struck by the number of volunteers in Cyrenians who end up working for the organisation. For some it’s because they wanted to volunteer and found they liked the organisation enough to want to work for us. For others, the volunteering is part of a journey from a tough reality and moving into work is the next step. For others, it was trying to fill their day with meaningful activity, and having begun to do so they want more of the same. And there are many more reasons. It’s not why people volunteer, but it does bring something special to our workforce as a result; a deeper understanding of who we are and why we do what we do from day one in the job.
This year we will once again have had over 1000 volunteers gifting their time in some way or another; in total they will have volunteered for around 70,000 hours. They are the backbone of our work and our way of being. The wisdom they bring, the insights, the passion and the commitment are the glue which binds us as Cyrenians. It is their gift which enable us to journey with many more people to a place of real transformation.
It is a gift not of time, but of life.
7th June 2018