Make your new year’s resolution to volunteer
Martin Docherty-Hughes explains why people should make their new year resolution to volunteer in 2017
As we move from 2016 into 2017 many of us will aim to make positive changes to our lives by committing to a new year's resolution. Although volunteering may not have always been thought of as a typical new year's resolution, if your goal is to gain new skills, meet new people or give back to the community then there can't be many better options than volunteering.
Before being elected as an MP I worked for more than a decade in the community and volunteering sector. I began my career with West Dunbartonshire Community and Volunteering Services (WDCVS), helping to develop and support local community organisations. I was then given the opportunity to join Volunteer Scotland as a policy advisor, so I have first-hand knowledge of the valuable role that the community and volunteering sector plays in our society. From sourcing community funding, to delivering training sessions and enabling volunteering opportunities, I believe this experience gives me a beneficial insight into the issues facing our community and volunteering sector.
As the SNP's spokesperson for civil society, I look forward to working with colleagues in both Westminster and Holyrood – and alongside people of all parties and none – as we continue to work towards the common goal of creating a fairer and socially just Scotland. I believe that social capital is the cornerstone of building confidence in our communities, and volunteering plays a key role in generating that social capital by building communities of interest or geography, and of choice.
The SNP recognises the worth, value and right of every citizen of Scotland to contribute to the development of a better, stronger and fairer Scotland. The Scottish Government is committed to working with the third sector to remove the barriers that prevent people from participating in volunteering opportunities. The funding made available through its Volunteering Support Fund enables community organisations to train and support volunteers from vulnerable backgrounds, helping thousands of people from disadvantaged communities who may not have otherwise been able to enjoy the benefits of volunteering.
Going forward, whilst I’d always endeavour to look towards the New Year with a sense of optimism, there are undoubtedly a number of societal challenges facing us in 2017. Many of our communities continue to be deeply impacted by poverty and inequality, with too many families relying on foodbanks to get by. An ageing population too brings a number of challenges, with a recent report by Age UK suggesting that millions of older people are suffering from the scourge of loneliness and social isolation.
The season of goodwill may be over for another year but the need to help the most disadvantaged in our communities doesn't stop when we take down the Christmas tree. Whether it's lending a hand at your local foodbank or spending a few hours each week befriending an older person, there are many ways to contribute to and benefit from volunteering. For anyone thinking about getting involved in volunteering in 2017 don't think twice, it's one new year's resolution definitely worth keeping.
Martin Docherty-Hughes is MP for West Dunbartonshire and SNP spokesperson for civil society