Friday, 28 November 2014

Socialisation Opportunities and Other Basic Resources

It makes sense to give back to the resources we use regularly and support the running of them.  As our government makes massive cuts across our tax-funded resources, more is falling to the community to keep free or low-cost access to basic resources such as nutrition, socialisation and education propped up.  I am not in favour of the Big Society shuffling off employed professionals to be replaced with amateur volunteers offering important services instead or the essential services disappearing altogether simply to cut council costs or tax.  In the meantime, however, these services need support and as loud a voice as possible. The more people who make use of the council-provided services and offer their voice, the more value the service will be deemed to have and so, hopefully, will less likely to be cut.
It can be a challenge to find time, especially with work or/and children, to volunteer.  I can forget myself and end up relying on others in the community to do it all on my behalf so I can benefit without input.  When I see the kids make an effort to help at group because they have seen me do so in the past, it inspires me again in turn to keep going and stay vocal.
On top of playing your part in supporting the community by helping provide valuable basic resources, you can gain so much by volunteering a little of your time... socialisation, education, experience, learning a new skill set, and building your own confidence.  This is a wonderful way for home educated children to venture into the world of work and community once they are old enough. My children, all under 10, already like to help when their Dad or I complete a volunteering duty, and they like to help with the setup or tidyup at community events and groups we attend.  If we all go to a group for the younger ones, then the older children help out by handing things out or interacting with all of the little ones in the group, or taking the juice orders, or leading songs and games. 
On Sunday gone, the children were given a Roots sheet to complete based around Matthew 25.31-46.  They had to list four practical things they could do to help people in need... they were able to list things that they already do and chose one more to embark on.  I went to a group on Thursday with the young tot on our own; at the end of song time she began lifting the tiny tot chairs and carrying them to the cupboard where the leader had begun putting them away, and continued until they were all tidied away. I was so humbled by her helpful nature and so thankful for her older siblings being such an influential example!
Some good places to look for flexible volunteering opportunities are:
  • Local Children Centres (Sure Start Centres)
Some of these have been closed already but those that are still open provide free social, health, educational and parenting support groups for parents, babies and young children.  They often also run Toy Libraries which offer baby equipment, baby and children's toys, and books for babies through to young adult collections, and parenting support.  My local centre have been very supportive when attending baby clinics with older children and actually suggested sessions that, although aimed at under 4s because it assumed only under 4s are able to attend through the day term-time, might be suitable for my kids just over the age limit and have welcomed them along.
  • Local libraries. 
If yours is still open, it might now be a community library kept open by charity groups after the professionals have been removed from the branch.  Public libraries may take on volunteers during groups, especially children's groups, but may be understandably wary at the moment due to the current climate of their employment.  Public and community libraries offer free entertainment and socialisation with groups and activities for all ages, as well as education (not only in paper form but with free/low-cost access to the internet and other electronic facilities) including free/low-cost courses.
  • Local food banks or other local food distribution projects
You can help out at these once a month or more often as you can.  If you are time-short, you can simply donate food to the projects when you are able. 
  • Scout Association and Girl Guiding. 
These groups provide low-cost regular entertainment, socialisation and education.  You do not have to be Christian to join now; the promise includes a reference to developing your beliefs rather than to 'God'. (If you prefer an organisation with a Christian focus then Boys Brigade and the Girls' Association offer the same opportunities.)  You can volunteer a couple of hours to help out a session once a week, or qualify to be a leader and set up your own group.
  • NHS Hospitals - some of their shops and libraries have always been attended by volunteers.  Some charities and churches organise visiting those in hospital.
  • Guerrilla gardening groups in your community
  • Interest organisations such as the RSPB run groups for adults and kids
  • Citizens Advice Bureau to help support those looking for information in handling disputes or personal crisis
  • Share a skill... offer at your community centre or library, or with your council's community learning project.
Some local councils have departments to help support charity groups and those who wish to volunteer. Check out their website for contact details.

What do you do in your community? I would love to hear about others' interesting projects - please add your stories in the comments below.

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