A Time for Giving



As December approaches we are constantly reminded that the ‘Season of Goodwill’ is nearly upon us. Advertisers and retailers let us know, in a myriad of different ways, the items that they have for sale and we are frequently asked to consider what gifts we might give to whom. It is very much ‘the season for giving’.

Also, at this time everyone seems to be extra busy buying cards and gifts, attending festivities and enjoying themselves and time is more stretched than ever.  As many people become busier and busier, however, the loneliness of older and isolated housebound people can be felt even more acutely. They probably don’t have as many presents to buy, parties to attend, or people to have a seasonal catch up with. People whom they do see may have less time for them.

Surely then, this is the perfect time of year to make the most precious gift of all – committing to spending time with someone who needs it. By going to someone’s house and spending an hour and a half to two hours with them every week, you are really valuing them and making a positive difference to their life.  It doesn’t cost anything monetary but becoming a volunteer befriender is to give one of the greatest gifts – the gift of time to someone who needs it. Is this something that you would like to do?

The festive season and its gifts are soon past and forgotten but being a regular Volunteer Befriender continues throughout the year.

Volunteer Link are recruiting volunteers and have a Volunteers Induction training day in January. If you would like to give the gift of your time to someone in need contact Bridget at Volunteer Link on bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk

What Volunteers Bring that Paid Workers Can’t


Photo by courtesy of NCVO London. See Copyright notice and Licence

As we begin to think ahead to Volunteers Week in June, when volunteers and all things volunteering are celebrated, I have been pondering on the value of volunteers. Some people argue that expecting people to work without pay is wrong and that everyone should be paid for the work that they do. This is a good argument and it concerns me that some volunteers are exploited in these days of austerity and cut backs.

Yet with befriending volunteering, if our volunteers were paid workers the relationship between client and befriender would fundamentally change and even if we could afford to pay our befrienders – who wants someone to be paid to be their friend? I don’t think our clients would appreciate this at all.

In fact I believe that what clients value most about their befriender’s visits are that the person is choosing to give their time for free, that is to spend time with them, and is not there simply to earn a living. This is in marked contrast to other people with whom they are likely to have contact, who will be professionals such as carers.

These days many of us have less leisure time than ever, and so the time that we do have is very precious. Added to this is the vast choice of ways we have in which to spend our free time, especially for those of us who live in London. To choose to spend some of this time with a lonely, isolated person, who is not a family member, is, therefore,  a real gift, and it is this that I believe  is most appreciated by our clients.

Volunteers offer something unique and priceless that paid workers can never replace, hence we must continually value and treasure them and acknowledging them in some way during Volunteers Week is a great place to start.