Community volunteering

rsz_img_8862_23972652672_oLast week some of the CST team visited a charity in Leeds – Action for Gipton Elderly (AGE) – to gain an insight into how they are using asset based community development to make a difference to older people in the area.

It was a fascinating discussion around the importance of supporting people in the community to be able to maintain their own wellbeing. About how reaching out to people in a community setting before they even realise they ‘need’ help can prevent a whole range of issues.

This week is Volunteers’ Week and one of the most interesting points which came out of the discussion was the role of the ‘volunteer’.

Whilst many charities go about volunteering more formally, AGE are coming at it completely differently. They don’t advertise for volunteers.

Their approach is to be the facilitators who bring people together and give them the support they need to create their own ‘groups’ which members of the community then run and sustain without the need for any external help. People are given a purpose by being asked to help within these settings.

rsz_st-albans-centre-hall_24054552836_oA ‘group’ might not even be more than matching two people up with a shared interest or it could be something more organised like a regular film evening.

In this way, people become ‘volunteers’ without really realising or putting a label on it. It’s two men walking to the shop to get their daily paper and offering to pick one up for someone else. It’s a lady seeing an unused community room and turning it into an activity hub for lonely neighbours.

It’s real effective community work at its finest and is clearly making a difference.