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Report transcript in: Michael's Volunteering story
Please Report the Errrors?
so Hello, Michael.
I just wanted to start with asking you
about what is your experience with volunteering?
Yeah. Now that I've been a volunteer centre
manager for five years, I've thought about that quite a lot.
did a presentation really recent recently, And I was
kind of trying to reflect that in my presentation. And I thought back,
and I concluded that my first volunteering
was helping the local farmer who delivered
eggs to the front door,
two broken hips.
when I was about eight or nine, my mother used to say, Oh, it's so sad that he,
um he has to He has to struggle up the drive, you know,
he has to struggle from to the front gate,
um, to deliver the eggs.
And, uh So I went out one day and I said, Can I do that for you?
And then after a while, he let me follow him around our
the eggs to the front doors of houses,
and it made me feel really good. I felt like I was doing something useful,
and I was quite shy, child, and I was quite nervous about
going up to the doors of even people who lived on our street,
And I kind of had that process of feeling I was
developing or something like that,
I think that
gave me a sort of taste for it.
Volunteering I you know, I feel empowered by helping people, and I feel
instantly rewarded by feeling
helping somebody else, even in a small way.
years later, I've had
experience of depression and anxiety from
burning out through a job,
and I very much felt in my recovery from that
doing the washing up or
changing nappy or
taking somebody else's child from the school gate for a couple of hours.
make me feel better, that sort of cycle of achievement.
when I came to the volunteer centre here in Kensington, Chelsea in
2017 after the fire,
um, I found that
slightly more formalised here in a way that I recognise. So
those cycles of
achievable modest goals for yourself,
maybe with the help of other people,
and then following through developing yourself so that you can achieve them
having that sense of self efficacy
reflecting and maybe going again for something else.
and in a sense, my experience of volunteering today with,
uh, volunteer Centre.
Whether the goal that the person has when they come through the door to us is
a well-being goal like it would have been when I was recovering
a desire to get into work,
whether it's a desire to get out of the house and have connection with human beings.
even if it's just a sort of a desire to give back to your community,
which in Kensington and Chelsea there's a wide range of people who feel that way
or a combination of many of those different goals, which is typical of our clients.
It's that cycle of
building achievement and then building your self efficacy.
I feel very strongly that
is what makes us
um, it's a strong base to be able to do all sorts of different things.
And so, in a way, although I think that
care to others,
caring for other people and doing practical things, to show that you care
and to help them
improve their lives
is at the centre of volunteering for me
in a way it doesn't
matter so much
what form that volunteering takes
as long as it's not
purely a transaction.
So I think there has to be that
the centre of volunteering for me is that human
So even if you're volunteering for a very large organisation
or the type of volunteering you're doing each day is very different.
As long as somewhere in that process you're building a connection. That could be
You're delivering a food parcel at somebody's front door
if you bring eggs at somebody's front door.
Uh, it could be,
you're coaching of sports session. It could be your
overseeing an upcycling project.
All sorts of different things
could be that you're in the laundry and a homeless, uh, V CS organisation.
Um, washing and drying the laundry of people who sleep rough,
which is what we consider to be the hardest volunteering job in all
whatever it is, as long as you have that connection.
So the connection with the people you're working with,
or even better,
the connection with the people you're working
with and the people that you're working
that's what makes it
powerful. And that's what drives the sense of self efficacy. I think
there has to be.
And, of course,
in a volunteer centre setting or in any
other place where volunteers are mobilised and deployed.
um, the the mutual sense of care.
So it's about the sense that not only do you care for others,
but your care for them is valued by them
by people who are helping to deploy you or who are your peer volunteers.
It's that sense of
humanity and action that the mutual care
that's the really,
um, which is the building block of
that self efficacy and that ability, then to meet other challenges in your life. Um,
being overworked or stressed, um, losing somebody that you love, um,
losing your home or whatever it is
enables you to go again and and and
build and go forward.
that is part of a bigger
project, which is about
making the world a better, fairer, more equitable place.
that collective element that again that mutual care,
It's bound. It's bound up in
what it means to volunteer.
So in a way, for me
coming to volunteer centre in Kensington, Chelsea and finding a culture,
um, and helping to propagate that culture, which is
based on love and care and
valuing each other,
uh, has been a Yeah, a massively
I really, um
I guess I'm
uh, my early fifties now, And it happened at a time in my life where
there were lots of different directions my life could have gone in. And
I'm really grateful that, um
I happened to land here at the right time.
It's really powerful. I love the ideas of connection and that
that humanity being really important
if you want to say something more around around that,
I suppose, um,
I suppose I,
um, come from
having learned about, um,
history and philosophy, formally,
uh, when I was doing that, it was my first year doing philosophy and
history of ideas at Cardiff University.
which I again kind of stumbled upon accidentally.
Somebody said that I liked an argument, and that philosophy would suit me.
Um, and it turned out they were right.
I was exposed to a huge range of different, um,
ideas and theories about how the world works how the world should work.
and I don't really at all subscribe to the idea of
a marketplace of ideas. I don't think such thing exists.
I think we're presented in general in life with,
the ideas that
people with large concentrations of power want us to have
and then that those ideas are sold into us.
that time in my life, I
I guess I felt that I had
the opportunity to think and
reflect on lots of different approaches to life.
I very quickly came to the conclusion that,
uh, I was
approaching life through a dynamic of
how power flows through
society and social institutions
and what you can do about that,
how it affects people, how it often
impoverishes or crushes people's,
And I came to the conclusion quite early that
I wanted to be involved in
the world in a way which would distribute that power
much more evenly
and that I was quite suspicious of people who wanted
to acquire more of that power.
without the accountability to the collective, that,
would counterbalance it.
And so I guess I I sort of
found my way to a sort of a narco communist
view of the world where,
the best things that we build, we build between
I guess that's the approach that I've taken ever since
I tried to be a person who
interesting ways to combine people's strengths and
goals together to try and take
collective projects forward
and I. I guess I've also been profoundly suspicious of people who,
who do things for money.
a warm, safe place to sleep,
and everybody needs enough to eat.
everybody needs time to reflect and,
uh, care and love.
But for me, those things, um,
shouldn't be contingent on
one's ability to labour.
They should be the fundamentals of how we organise our lives.
And so, um,
yeah, I guess I
I've tried to avoid
situations in which I'm working
with people or four goals, which has to do with,
um seeing people or situations as profit.
I guess that's how I ended up coming to finding my way to a volunteer centre because,
um, I don't want to judge anybody else and I don't want to,
prevent them from taking their lives in
the direction that they think are appropriate.
But I where I can I want to work with people and encourage people
to do things because they care about them and because they think that they're
Um, and the volunteer centre seems like a good place to start with.
As you were speaking, I was thinking about
some of the themes around the vision for volunteering.
I don't know if you want to reflect on whether
anything that you've discussed might tie into any of those.
I suppose thinking very, very much about where I come from,
I've described already that, um,
an analysis of power is very important to me
and thinking about
the opportunities that people do or don't have for giving their
time and their care to others.
people's choices are massively constrained by how much power they have.
So for example,
I live, uh, I live in a very affluent part of London in Richmond,
but I work in, uh, the most unequal, uh, borough in the country,
Kensington and Chelsea.
And my experience is that
people from the
poorest parts of the community.
Um, marginalised and racialized.
people who are disabled people have long term mental health issues.
People released from prison
from psychiatric care
often make, uh,
as good or better volunteers,
uh, than somebody who has the means to
make many more choices about what they do with their time.
that first group of people are often, um,
because they have fewer choices.
They either don't think of themselves as volunteers,
their their their carers for their neighbours, for example,
they're contributing to their church or to their mosque or to their temple.
in many cases doesn't speak to them as a term,
but also, um,
they're massively constrained by the position
they find themselves in economically.
I think the
parts of the vision that talk about
the power to volunteer and the opportunities that go
with that and the constraints that go with that
appeals to me. I'm very interested in,
for example, um,
we talk a lot
the protected characteristics and how, for example, race might affect uh,
you know how somebody is racialized might affect
the opportunities they have to give time to others the acceptability of
or, for example, gender and how that might influence their opportunities.
But we're almost not allowed to talk about
how class and economic power,
affect and constrain those choices.
And in a in a very unequal borough like this one,
the impact is stark.
It's, you know, it's It's one of the first things that you see, if not the first,
you encounter somebody wanting to make an offer of
of their time and their care.
And I suppose that's the
That's the part that that something like a vision
for volunteering where the rubber really hits the road.
Because that's the part that,
can have a potentially huge impact on
the extent of participation of some parts of the community in civil society,
where other parts of the community might not even reflect on
those choices, that for them that's a it's a personal choice.
It's maybe a moral choice as to whether you give to your community or not,
whereas for a significant proportion of the population in a borough,
um, there are some very, very practical constraints about,
having to do so many hours of work in order to pay the bills that you you know,
you don't have the time or the energy to to give your time to others.
many of those people still find time to
to contribute and to give their time as volunteers.
Thank you, Michael. Is there anything else you wanted to add in the time we've got?
I think I've talked enough.