Molly shares her experience as a volunteer and thoughts on involving volunteers 

great. So thanks, Molly. Uh, lovely to see you. Um, I just wanted to get started by asking how how are you involved in volunteering? So, uh, I work for Ground London, which is a community and environmental charity

And ground work is a federation of different charities across the UK. And I work for London, which is the London based one. And at ground London, we run a few different volunteering services

Uh, and I am the project manager for the service in a forest, which is called, uh, very romantically, the Legends of the forest. Um, so, uh, the reason that that's called that is because it began in the 2019 borough of culture. Um, So Walton Forest was the first borough of culture in London, and the volunteering service for that programme was called the Legends of the Forest

Then we, uh, the legends of the forest became the kind of service kind of so basically kind of the wrapping up and the kind of discussions were happening in early 2020 it was like, How do we How do we transition this? What are the next steps? And then, uh, everything changed very quickly. and suddenly it became part of the kind of covid response for a couple of years and going into the vaccination response. And then from November 2021 when I joined the team

So this is a long preamble to your to your question. But when I joined the team as a volunteer development coordinator, um, it's sort of the service transition to being a traditional volunteer centre. So my role, um, is a lot about supporting organisations, uh, to recruit volunteers and giving advice on managing volunteers recruiting volunteers

Uh, and then obviously now I'm the project manager. So I oversee the whole programme, um, along with, uh, my other colleagues who kind of deliver the the key bits of the service. Uh, yes

So that is the how I am involved in volunteering. And I've also in the past, uh, volunteered, uh, in different sort of opportunities as well. Can I ask what kind of things you've done? Volunteer

So, uh, I've done a lot of volunteer being a volunteer usher at See Shows. I was a volunteer at the Shakespeare's globe where this is quite a long time ago. Now there was a production of Titus Andronicus, Which is that the one with the the one with all the fainting I think I saw about, I think about four or five people faint

And when people fainted, you had to go and get a wheelchair. But it it became, like, so regular for someone to faint because, uh, the production was incredibly, uh, it was really good. I didn't see a lot of it because I was on the eye out for people fainting

But it's very, um, it's sort of a Shakespeare play that is not as well known as some of the others. The production of this was quite famously very, uh, brutally graphic, Uh, and also, if you've never been to the Shakespeare's globe, there's a whole bit where people stand. Uh, so there's like it's like like how it would have been in Shakespeare's time

So there's people standing. If you've been on your feet all day, it's really hot. And then there's someone a lot of very graphic, bloody violence on stage

Not the best combination in the world, it turns out, but it was a lot of fun, and everyone was fine, you know, once they they were looked after carefully. It's It's just so a bit of fainting is part of the course of that production. But it wasn't what you'd expected when you signed up to volunteer

No, but it was quite exciting. I don't know. Being part of that is quite fun

Uh, I've kind of volunteered, uh, a while ago with a refugee homework club, which was really fun. So on Saturday mornings, uh, I've occasionally volunteered with food cycles, so I've done lots of, um, which is food cycles where you come together and cook a meal, Uh, using kind of donated food. So I like trying out different opportunities and and seeing what, uh, what's involved? Do you think some of the experience that you had as a as a volunteer how did that help to shape your actual professional volunteer development coordinator role? It's, um definitely

I find that when I am talking to people about volunteering and kind of think about how I would appreciate it as a volunteer. So, uh, this is like a very petty thing, but I hate having to download a word document, edit it and then re upload it and send it off like a vol. This is a very specific example, but like volunteer application forms, because I know that when you're looking to volunteer, you kind of want to minimise the amount of admin

And I think it's not always the best, the most admirable quality in in mine and in me. But I kind of dislike of having to do admin that feels fit, fiddly or inefficient is a really, um, it's one of my little bug beds, or it will be something that then falls down the If I can't do it straight away, it will be on the bottom of my to do list because I I'm like, Oh, I've got other things to think about so often when I talk to people about volunteering something I and and their process is going through and I sort of have to say, I'll be honest with you If I saw that I had to download a word document right in the information, then upload it and resend it, and I had to do that on my phone or, you know, it was kind of a complicated thing. I definitely mean to do it at some point, but it would it would fall down my list of my to do list

So I tend to when I do volunteering things pay attention to things I find annoying or things that I find, uh, are kind of a bit awkward and sticky and then say to to people kind of running organisations What what? Why are they like that? And and where are those moments for volunteers? And how can you communicate more effectively about those moments as well? Because it might be, Oh, it has to be like this for this reason, but volunteers don't know that. So it just feels bureaucratic. So I tend to keep that kind of customer awareness point on

Um, yeah, So I think that's mainly it is that I Yeah, I, I notice the things that annoy me. Uh And then I try and communicate them to organisations, uh to help them with kind of retaining volunteers and recruiting volunteers. I think that sounds like a really valuable learning to to to bring to others

Um, so finally, what would you say to somebody who's thinking about volunteering? Um, I think if you're thinking about volunteering, it's a really good, uh, thing to think honestly about what you want to get out of it. So sometimes I. I like to try out lots of different things and do something different to my everyday life

I tend not to mention that my job involves managing or coordinating volunteers, especially when it has previously, because I don't actually want to do that as part of my volunteering, Um, and so if, for example, you just wanna do something really short term, there are lots of opportunities. Uh, for that. If you want to do something longer term, you can also find that out

You can find those kind of opportunities, but I think it's a good practise to really be honest with yourself about how much time you're able to commit because you don't want to. For yourself, go down a journey where you're putting a lot of time in the early stages, and actually you don't really want to do it longer term. And for the charity's point of view, they probably you know, they don't want to invest a lot of time with you, um, at the beginning

If you're not able to have that longer commitment and it's, I think sometimes people feel kind of bad about not being able to do the most challenging of roles, But it's, you know, you should be kind of thinking about what you need as well, because actually, it's It's not in the charity's interest to have someone who would like to be the kind of person who's able to do a really challenging role but actually isn't and that's completely OK. I also think it is a really, um, amazing thing to get together with other people and do things and make a difference. Uh, and don't kind of underestimate that, um whenever I I think that's such a powerful thing

When and we kind of live in a very isolated world, it's not an original thing to say, but we kind of more and more kind of isolated in our own bubbles. And it's very hard to break out of that because we so much of our life is about in, you know, prioritising that individual comfort and your individual experience. So you're really working against a lot of cultural conditioning, but coming together with other people and and making a difference, whether that's online or in person, and whether that's just a day or a longer term, commitment is really valuable

So you sort of have to trust as you're kind of going. Oh, I could go home and sit on my sofa and watch my TV show. That has been the algorithm has found for me because they'll know I really like it

And I have to walk in the rain to this thing that I don't know I'm gonna like. And it's not going to be designed and perfect for me and I. I feel that as much as anyone else

But when you're there, it's such an intoxicating thing because we're like, from cave people times we're kind of meant to do and be, do things together and work together to make something happen. So it's a very, um you sort of have to trust that it will be. It will be, um, a great experience

And that's thank you. And intoxicating a word to describe it. Thanks, Molly

Is there anything else you wanted to add, or shall we say, um, I, I suppose. Just like, uh, is there anything I want to add? I think just I, um really love working in volunteering. Um and I think it's something we probably don't appreciate enough is those people that get their time, uh, that there's a writer called, Um oh

I can't remember his name. Uh, sorry if I quickly look it up. Um, a, uh, A bit

Well, so maybe Yeah. Sorry, I I Maybe I Maybe I can't find his name. Uh, quickly enough

I don't think it's gonna work. So sorry about that. I can, Um but I'll start again by just saying that basically, people who volunteer, um, are kind of amazing

And I think we it we obviously try and recognise and celebrate those people. But people who give a lot of time to their community, I think, are the kind of people that don't necessarily always want to be, uh, a big celebration or a big appreciation. But, uh, I think that there are so many kind of, uh, systems and pro, uh, things that people fall through would fall through the cracks If there weren't those people who really dedicated to giving their time and working a volunteer

You do just meet people all the time who are sort of amazing, but would never think of themselves as being amazing, but just choose to help other people. So, yeah, that's what I'd like to end on. Thank you


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