Open any newspaper or browse any social media site this month and this is a sentence you are likely to come across very quickly.  The image of General Kitchener and the accompanying phrase is etched very deeply into our country’s psyche, and has been since it was first used to encourage young men to enlist in the armed forces during the Great War 100 years ago.  At that time the people of Britain were required to pull together and sacrifice all for the good of the nation and Commonwealth.

Now, a century later, the numbers of people volunteering is on the increase again. Thankfully this time all that is being sacrificed is a little time.

In the years following the First World War, where so many of our younger generation had been lost on the battlefields of France, Belgium and further afield, employment wasn’t difficult to come by as there were more vacancies than potential employees.  In the 21st century this trend has been reversed and some job advertisements can attract literally thousands of applications.  This inevitably means that some people are stuck in an endless cycle of application and rejection.  This is particularly relevant to the younger job-seeker who may not have the work experience to make him or her stand out amongst the crowd.  As unemployment stretches into years for an individual, their chances of becoming recruited become increasingly remote.

Many of our public services are now becoming oversubscribed.    As local authorities are forced to tighten their belts, this is having a knock-on effect on health and social services; there seems to be simply less money to spread around.  As energy prices rise and the cost of living becomes more difficult to achieve everyone is feeling the pinch.  This is where a move towards volunteering can really help to get the country back on it’s feet – and there is already a marked trend towards people, young and old, giving up their own time to work free of charge.  In the past this type of work has been criticised as ‘slave labour’.  Why should people be expected to work without pay? 

The benefits of volunteering are threefold:  The benefit to the organisation or company taking on the volunteer is probably the most obvious.  The company gets a worker that they don’t have to pay.  But there are many other benefits to the company that may not be so obvious at first glance.  Many volunteers are retired or semi-retired people who want to put something back into their community, and volunteers from this generation can bring a vast wealth of experience with them.  On the whole, volunteers are people whom the company employing them know actually are enthusiastic and want to be there.  These aren’t people who have been made to come to work at the risk of losing their benefit entitlement.  This means that the majority of volunteer workers are very motivated and enthusiastic individuals who are keen to be at work.  Also, many organisations, such as Shores are charities and are not out to make a profit.  Many of these types of companies could not exist without a dedicated team of volunteers to supplement the employed staff.

The second major benefit of volunteering is to the volunteer him or herself.  For younger jobseekers, becoming a volunteer is an excellent way to gain experience and any potential employer, upon seeing volunteer work on a CV will realise that this person has the potential to be a valuable asset to the workforce.  Volunteering is also a useful way for any person of any age to keep busy in a meaningful and productive way.  It can build self-esteem and be a good way to meet new friends, as well as an invaluable way to learn about an industry and gain skills.

The third and possibly greatest benefit of becoming a volunteer is the huge benefit to your local community and to the nation as a whole.  Working as a volunteer means you will meet people from all kinds of backgrounds and different generations.  Some of the closest friendships in life are forged in the workplace, and having members of a community from so many different backgrounds working together has the potential to really knit that community together.  Organisations like Shores, as previously mentioned could not exist without it’s volunteer workers and all of the other facets of such an organisation that benefit the community in so many different ways could easily be lost.

Communities with bonds forged in such a way can benefit the nation as a whole, driving the economy forward and helping to support struggling local authorities, who in turn may then find that they have extra capacity to improve hospitals, schools, public services and the people who really do need a helping hand.

If you have never thought of volunteering before, why not give it a try?  The benefits can be huge and you can work as many or as few hours as suits you. 

Your Community Needs You (and we all need our communities)!

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