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Volunteers’ Week: Giving something back

PUBLISHED: 10:10 07 June 2016 | UPDATED: 12:24 09 June 2016

Volunteering is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people (Photo: Oculo Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Volunteering is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people (Photo: Oculo Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Archant

To mark national Volunteers’ Week, we asked Teresa Heritage, cabinet member for public health, localism and libraries at Hertfordshire County Council, to outline the many volunteer opportunities on offer to support our community

Volunteering is something that thousands of Hertfordshire residents do every day. A survey conducted by Hertfordshire County Council last year revealed that more than 40 per cent of county residents participated in activities organised by community groups, clubs or other organisations over the previous 12 months.

This year the council launched its Year of Volunteering – celebrating the contribution that volunteers make to our community, promoting the benefits of volunteering and highlighting the varied voluntary roles in the county. The campaign is supported by a range of organisations from across the county, including district, town and parish councils, council voluntary services and Herts Sports Partnership.

Four volunteers

Ken Wright, 84, of Welwyn Garden City, leads a weekly Hertfordshire Health walk on a voluntary basis. Ken did his first health walk in July 2015 and was asked then whether he’d consider becoming a walk leader. ‘In October I did my training and I now support a lot of walks every week. I walk Sherradspark Wood in Welwyn Garden City every week and I also join other walks to catch up with friends to see how they are getting on. I always feel part of a team.’

St Albans’ Lynn Myland also volunteers in the countryside with the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Community Horse Patrol. The scheme enlists volunteer horse riders to act as a rural neighbourhood watch, looking out for anti-social behaviour while out riding and reporting anything suspicious to the district council and the fire service Watch Commander. The 59-year-old says, ‘So many people stop me while I’m out riding and ask about the scheme; they think our horse patrol is a great idea. I really enjoy this part of the role as it helps me feel that I’m giving something back to the community. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve spotted and reported something that’s a potential hazard or danger. I’m helping to make the countryside safer for everyone. Volunteering is also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who want to get involved and help build community spirit.’

Rosemary Brace, 24, from Ware, also volunteers with Hertfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service. Since 2014 Rosemary has been volunteering three days a week, taking on a variety of roles including carrying out and evaluating home fire safety visits, attending fire service open days and roadshows, and training fire service cadets.

‘It’s a very rewarding and worthwhile thing to do. I enjoy teaching cadets as I can see the progress they are making from week to week. I also love being able to reassure people that they are at less risk of fire after I’ve done a home fire safety visit – I know someone is safer and I’ve done something good today.’

Opportunities for volunteering in Hertfordshire are not limited to those who enjoy being in the great outdoors or working with the fire service; the Hertfordshire Library Service has a number of ways that people can volunteer their time and share their skills. These include becoming an IT champion, helping to deliver books with the home library service, and working in partnership to provide a frontline library service as a community library volunteer.

Dorothy Sutton, 92, from Broxbourne, started volunteering with the home library service a year after she retired at 60 – she wanted to do something that would keep her active, stay independent and help others at the same time.

Since then Dorothy has travelled around with a volunteer driver delivering reading material to customers every two weeks. She stepped down as a volunteer this year, becoming a Home Library Service customer herself. She remains very positive about the benefits of volunteering, including the social aspect: ‘If you are alone in life, you should go for it – it helps other people and gets you out of the house.’

There are so many marvellous examples of how residents have taken the lead and made a real difference to their local areas. It’s important to remember that volunteering doesn’t have to be formal – there are a number of ways you can get involved in your community, even on an ad-hoc basis. Any time you can give will make a difference.

Get involved

There are many wide-ranging voluntary roles on offer with Herts County Council and its partners in:

Countryside management

Libraries and archives

Protecting the community

Schools and youth work

Supporting adults

For full details of what’s on offer, visit hertsdirect.org/your-community/volunteering/yearofvol

National Volunteers’ Week: The Big Celebration takes place from June 1-12. See volunteersweek.org

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