A range of volunteering opportunities for people short of time, including ongoing support for formerly homeless people and providing mentors to children, were on show during this week’s volunteer fair in Hackney.
The fair, which took place on 2 June, was part of the National Volunteer Week (1-7 June), an annual celebration of the contributions made by millions of volunteers across the United Kingdom.
It is also an occasion to encourage more people to devote their time to a good cause.
Lauren Tobias, Chief Executive Officer at Volunteer Centre Hackney said: “We find that such events are a good opportunity to get people more interested in the actual charities [and] the roles that are available, because they can actually talk about it.
“People will maybe look at the role on a database but it is very difficult to bring a role to life and it might sound a bit boring.”
All organisations at the fair were local charities, able to provide “things for like one or two hours a week that fit around peoples’ lives” said Katie Barton, Head of Volunteering at VCH.
“We brought together about nine organisations, including ourselves actually, which are all doing quite different things but they are all very flexible.”
Barton described the volunteer centre as “a matchmaking service.”
“We work with organisations helping them find volunteers, and we also work with people helping them find work with charities,” she said.
The fair attracted a large number of locals, who could speak to the different charities and sign up to dedicate some of their time to volunteering.
Tobias, a volunteer herself, said there are many different benefits from volunteering.
She found that volunteering with an elderly person leaves her “feeling at peace”.
Furthermore she enjoys “having an hour out of my life when it’s not just about me and I can just devote myself to her, although I do end up talking a lot about myself as well. She gives me a lot more than I give her.”
Volunteering “has a way of making you feel good about yourself because you’re doing something nice for someone else,” Barton said.
People who have been long-term unemployed, or young people looking to gain new skills and work experience can also benefit from volunteer work.
Tobias said: “[volunteering] can help them get used to the work place and get used to being on time, basic things that can make the employer feel like you’re not employable, you can easily sort out with just a bit of guidance.”
The fair is one of the many events held across east London this week. Volunteer Centre Lewisham holds a number of speed volunteering events this weekend, to give everyone a try at volunteering through easy activities such as gardening or cleaning of the community centre.