No matter what you think of the ‘Big Society’, volunteering really helps people, and it feels good too. If you’re unsure about committing a regular chunk of time, or just want to dip in a tentative toe, look at these different organisations to see which can point you towards flexible opportunities. The same applies if you want to make a radical life change. And for both, you can start here:
Community Service Volunteers I’ve had a soft spot for Community Service Volunteers since they found me a great job with blind kids in Liverpool when I was 19. They’re still going strong, offering volunteering opportunities for people of all ages, including an RSVP programme for 50+ types with more time on their hands (not high50-ers then?!). There is also a range of flexible opportunities, some one-off. Best of all, they have a non-rejection policy and strong European and US links.
Voluntary Services Overseas This is generally the first organisation that comes to mind when you think about volunteering – and for good reason. But it’s only really suitable if you’re thinking of jacking in the day job for a while and dedicating your professional skills to a big challenge far from Blighty. Sectors include communications, community development, teaching and health.
Timebank is less well-known but no less worthy. It has a variety of mentoring schemes, focusing on tackling social issues, and helps to find the right projects for both individual and corporate volunteering.
Also in the matchmaking business is Do-it, a quick way to apply your skills – and the amount of time you want to commit – to people who need your help. Just tap in your postcode, interests and when you’re available, and a range of possibilities pops up. This site can also point volunteers in the direction of tempting residential opportunities, if you want to give up a week or more, from environmental and sustainable technology projects to volunteering as an RSPB warden or working with disabled adults.
Finally, if you favour a particular charity, the obvious place to start is its website, and Oxfam is the classic example. There are not only opportunities in Oxfam shops; you can work at music festivals, take up a volunteer internship, sort stuff in its giant warehouse or get stuck into the local community.