Volunteering in the UK is on the rise, with more than a third of us now giving our time for at least an hour each week. If you’re looking for volunteering opportunities in the new year, read on for nine brilliant ways you can make a difference to your community in 2020.
And whether you woke up feeling jubilant or gutted on results day, it’s important to remember that casting a political vote is not the only way you can effect change. You can give your time, your cash or even your belongings to directly help people in your local community. From talking to your aged neighbour, to volunteering at a food bank or raising money for your local women’s refuge centre, there are plenty of ways to get stuck in.
Small charities are the backbone of local communities and they make changes in real and meaningful ways, often with little resources. Thankfully, according to do-it.org, volunteering is on the rise: in 2010 the amount of people volunteering for one hour a week was 23%, which has risen to 36% today.
If you want to volunteer on a more regular basis, we’ve rounded up nine ways in which you can help to make a real difference in 2020. Simply scroll down to be inspired to make a change.
Refuge supports women who experience violence and abuse, providing a safe space to stay, one-on-one counselling and phone advice. Help by donating cash to buy emergency parcels filled with basic necessities, or fundraise by hosting a coffee morning, pub quiz or raffle at work. Alternatively challenge yourself by participating in an annual Refuge event, such as the Adidas City Run or RideLondon 100-mile cycle race. If you can commit for a minimum of three months, the charity will train volunteers so you can assist on its 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline.
The Trussell Trust
The Trussell Trust is working to stop UK hunger and poverty through a network of food banks that provide emergency food and support to people in crisis. Head to the Trussell Trust website, enter your postcode and find your local food bank, then take a look at what’s in a ‘food parcel’ to see which items are most needed.
Food banks also accept essential non-food items, such as toiletries and hygiene products. The charity needs 20,000 volunteers to staff all its food banks, so is always grateful for people who can spare time as well as donating food.
The Felix Project
The Felix Project collects fresh food from supermarkets, wholesalers, farms, restaurants and delis that can no longer be sold. It then gives it to schools and charities so they can provide healthy meals and help the most vulnerable people in our society, from malnourished elderly people, to young mothers who go without so that they can feed their kids.
London-based, the charity could not function without its volunteers and whether you can spare a couple of hours, days or weeks a month, they need people to drive delivery vans, cycle around London distributing food and help in their food-sorting depots.
Keep Our NHS Public
The Keep Our NHS Public movement is a way for anyone worried about the privatisation of the NHS to contribute and make a difference. The initiative is the largest campaign in the UK and has hundreds of activists working tirelessly in their communities to save hospitals from closure. Find out where your nearest local group is and contact them about local activities in which you can get involved.
Magic Me is an arts charity that has united generations for 25 years. One of their key initiatives is Cocktails in Care Homes, which sees volunteers host cocktail parties for elderly residents suffering with dementia who otherwise go for weeks at a time without seeing anyone from outside the home. The charity provides you with a course about dementia before matching you to a care home in your community where you’ll chat to residents, read to them, socialise and serve drinks.
Great British Beach Clean
Great British Beach Clean is the Marine Conservation Society’s national beach cleaning programme where people all around the UK can care for their coastline. Taking place on 20-23 September 2020, it calls on teams of volunteers to litter pick on 100m stretches of beach. Last year over 10,000 volunteers cleaned 437 beaches, from Scotland’s Shetland Islands to the Channel Islands and the Irish Sea, removing 10,833kg of litter in one weekend. Grab your friends and make a weekend of it – just make sure you pack a thick pair of gardening gloves.
Kitchen Social is a charity that aims to combat ‘holiday hunger’. In London alone over 700,000 children receive free school meals daily, but during the school holidays they have no access to this food, leaving them suffering hunger and social isolation. The Kitchen Social programme runs 110 hubs in youth clubs, schools, churches and community centres during the school holidays, providing meals to thousands of children and young people. Whether you can cook up a storm in the kitchen, help to entertain children or even persuade your company to sponsor a centre, the initiative needs your help in supporting the next generation.
Charity shops can be found on every high street in the UK and are always in need of both donations and volunteers. If you have time to spare and want to use it to benefit a charity close to your heart most charity shops will only ask for an hourly commitment, meaning you can fit volunteering in around your other commitments.
Facebook is often a good place to start if you want to help your immediate community. Sign up to your local area group and keep an eye out for people asking for help. Often it will be parents who are on the hunt for resources for their children, such as books or used toys.
This piece was originally published on 4 January
Images: Getty, Unsplash