An opportunity to assist a Buckinghamshire good cause
PUBLISHED: 16:38 20 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:38 20 January 2016
Why not start your year by assisting a local good cause as a volunteer? Sandra Smith investigates some of the opportunities
“Never underestimate how your time can help a young person. Our volunteers are positive role models. We ask them to commit to two hours per week but more is welcome,” says Grace Wilkinson of this Great Brickhill charity providing disadvantaged children with the opportunity to ride and look after horses.
She also stresses that equine experience is not compulsory as everyone receives training: “Volunteers help children get changed into riding gear, hold the reins correctly or walk round with them. They might support individuals or groups, organise refreshments, even do maintenance work. We’re currently working with 88 children per week between the ages of 8 and 17.”
Children who attend award winning Ride High are often vulnerable or have difficulties with social skills, so building relationships with members of the team is crucial to their wellbeing.
On 30 January the charity will hold its annual Fairytale Ball at Jurys Inn, Central Milton Keynes.
Embracing mental health and wellbeing through nature and horticulture, this recently established charity works with 10 gardeners per day on a five acre site where a range of plants and vegetables are grown. “We fly in the face of conventional medicine,” co founder Sian Chattle explains. “Our gardeners, who have all been referred, take ownership and responsibility. They may have learning disabilities or head injuries, but we help them build social skills.”
Of the 90 volunteers, those with a passion for the outdoors concentrate on horticulture; others are involved in events, fundraising and maintenance. Every helper, Sian stresses, has a role to play. “Volunteers don’t have to be a gardener or have experience with mental health. For instance, we do arts and crafts in the winter. And volunteers can come for one hour a week or every day – we’re flexible.”
The charity operates from a five acre site next to the Wyevale Garden Centre in Wendover.
Friends of Norden House Surgery
Since its establishment in 1987 the Friends of Norden House Surgery has raised thousands of pounds, enabling the purchase of digital blood pressure monitors and other medical equipment to benefit patients. Volunteers contribute in various ways. Firstly, a Fundraising Committee organises four annual events: an Easter Bazaar held in Winslow’s St Laurence room; a Quiz Night; the Winslow Show; and Winslow Farmers Market at Christmas. At these events the sale of cakes, homemade produce and raffle tickets generates income whilst simultaneously raising the profile of the Friends within the area.
Volunteers may, however, prefer to become a Trustee. The Trustees are responsible for how monies are spent and include a Norden House Surgery doctor and Practice Manager. A medical background is not required, just a willingness to serve this respected charity.
South Bucks Hospice
To be a day care volunteer, a sensitivity to the needs of others and good communication skills are vital. “A medical background is desirable but not essential though volunteers should have excellent listening skills,” advises Mary-Ann Leader, Community Volunteer Coordinator. One or half day per week commitment is the norm at the hospice since regularity is crucial to the patients.
For those who wish to get involved but are unsure about working with the terminally ill, there are driving duties as well as fundraising events to coordinate, such as February’s Snowdrop Sunday at West Wycombe Estate. All volunteers are required to go through a formal recruitment process which involves an interview and references. “A review takes place after a one month induction period and if volunteers aren’t at ease with their environment, we try to find them an alternative role.”
At the Old Boot Factory in Chesham, 200 volunteers sift, repair and refurbish tools and equipment. Each item helps support individual livelihood in order to break the cycle of poverty. “We ship eight containers per year, two each to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia,” says their Publicity Officer, Joe Walsh. “These tools would otherwise go to landfill.”
From sewing machines to spades and drills, this Victorian building is packed with donations, all restored to working order by volunteers including work experience student Barnaby Thornton: “I’ve always had an interest in engineering and it’s something I am considering doing at university. Working here is giving me lots of hands-on experience. I really like the way everyone has their personal projects to work on; in this way you feel more responsible.”
Driving and packaging skills are equally invaluable at the Queens Award winning charity which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.
A mutual hobby or skill is the key to this practically minded organisation. Lynda Mapplebeck from Aylesbury was lonely but her sense of isolation dissipated once she was teamed with her volunteer. “I’ve had Parkinson’s Disease for nine years and felt very isolated. But Linda and I share a love of baking. We have become good friends; she has enriched my life.” Linda is equally effusive about their relationship: “Sometimes we just natter over a cup of tea but whatever we do it’s about giving Lynda variation to her day. She is an inspiration, determined not to let ‘it’ get her down too much. I’ve also met members of her family and feel privileged that we all get on so well.”
All manner of adult interests from painting and walking to theatre or gardening can nurture a degree of independence and only a weekly two hour commitment is required.
Hughenden Valley Community Shop
“The ethos behind this village shop,” says Manager, Louise Jones, “is to provide a service. We are the hub of the village. Shopping here is as much about personal contact as buying a pint of milk.” Volunteers, who share a common bond of enjoying human interaction, vary in age from 13 to 84. Three hour shifts are the norm, though more is welcome and, as well as selling basic household products and locally baked cakes and bread, a coffee shop also provides a vibrant meeting place. “Full training is given for till use though it’s an intuitive system,” Louise continues, “and retail experience isn’t necessary.” With the shop open every day of the week and home deliveries available to those who are housebound, this venture offers the prospect of being part of the community.