Young Scots are moulding the future of volunteering

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Volunteers' Week 2018 is underway, with a focus on recruiting new volunteers through engagement with young people

1st June 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Engaging young people is the key to increasing the number of Scots giving up their time for good causes, third sector bosses have claimed.

Volunteers’ Week starts on Friday 1 June with a theme of volunteering for all, which aims to highlight the diverse amount of people who volunteer.

The value of volunteering to the Scottish economy is estimated at £2 billion, with 27% of the adult population giving up their time. However volunteer numbers have stagnated in recent years, and lie at similar levels to a decade ago.

So, what can be done to involve more people in helping out charities and communities in Scotland?

In the run-up to Volunteers’ Week, ProjectScotland unveiled plans to work alongside Young Scot to develop a National Youth Development Volunteering Team. The team will consist of 25 people aged between 14 and 25, and aims to develop a range of recommendations to help the government ensure there are more people volunteering in 2028.

ProjectScotland chief executive Paul Reddish said it is vital that volunteering opportunities are promoted.

He said: “There are so many great things about volunteering: you get to meet new people, develop your skills, gain experience, make a difference in your local community and have fun. We’ve been working with volunteers for over 10 years and our volunteers in that time have racked up over three million volunteer hours.

“We want to take our experience and combine it with the experiences of young people to help encourage more people across Scotland to volunteer. At the heart of all of our work are the voices and experiences of young people – as the future generation, we can’t do this without them.”

John Downie, director of public affairs for the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) said this also ties in with a wider need for the sector to connect more with young people.

He said: “Volunteer numbers in Scotland have stagnated and as a sector we must take a radical approach to encourage more people to give up their time for good causes.

“Micro volunteering and digital technology mean that getting people to utilise their skills to help your organisation can be easier than ever before. The benefits of volunteering, for both charities and the individuals involved, are clear and it is vital that we see the amount of volunteers in Scotland increase over the next ten years.

 “Volunteering schemes can also be a great way of getting new and younger people involved in the third sector, although it is vital that we not only engage with young people as volunteers, but also empower and enable them to participate in the wider third sector, so that they can go on to become not only volunteers and employees, but future leaders.”

Volunteer Week events will take place across the country from small awards ceremonies to large celebratory gatherings.

The Scottish Volunteering Forum, which organises Volunteers’ Week, has said it is keen to encourage more people in Scotland to volunteer their time and skills and will be highlighting a range of opportunities and case studies throughout the week. People interested in volunteering are encouraged to browse opportunities that fit in with their lifestyle, location, skills and interests by using the Volunteer Scotland website.

Young Scots who have made the jump into volunteering

Young Scots are moulding the future of volunteering

​Dured Alhalabe

Two years ago, Dured Alhalabe (pictured) and his family were sought refuge in Scotland and were accepted into the small Aberdeenshire town of Inverurie. 

Since arriving in Scotland, Alhalbe has volunteered at his local Trussell Trust foodbank, set up coffee mornings so fellow refugees can introduce themselves to local people, and even helped switching on the local the Christmas lights. 

He also set up a community group, which he called the Amal Project after the Arabic word for hope, to help make Syrians feel more at home in Scotland. This project, and his work, now support over 140 Syrian refugees in his local community.  

He said: “Volunteering has helping me to develop a lot of skills and improve my network. It also makes me happy because I enjoy what I do, and I feel very proud when I give something back to my community.”

Jennifer Preston

Jennifer Preston is one of hundreds of Scottish youngsters who have achieved their Saltire Award for volunteering. The award recognises the hours a young person, aged 12 to 25, puts in with the charity sector.

Preston has been a regular volunteer at Forth Valley Sensory Centre for a number of years, and started volunteering when she was still at primary school.

“I really enjoy working with the different groups and ages” she said. “Interacting with different people is always interesting and it has kept me busy in the summer holidays and at other times when I might otherwise have nothing to do.”

Scottish Government cabinet secretary for communities Angela Constance is supporting Volunteers Week and said it is vital that good work going on in the community is expanded.

She said: “Volunteering is a rewarding experience and I hope that the Volunteers’ Week celebrations will inspire more people to join the thousands already donating their time and energy to good causes across the country.

“Getting involved in a local project, learning new skills and meeting new people is not just rewarding to us each as individuals, but by coming together we build stronger community links and there are examples in every village, town and city, where volunteers have made a really positive difference for everyone to enjoy.”

To join the conversation on Volunteers’ Week on social media, use the hashtag #VolunteersWeekScot