Environment, Green living

Volunteer Revolution!

January 9, 2014

volunteer orchardI am calling for a volunteer revolution!

One of my most memorable evenings was an AGM of Transition Chichester.* AGMs tend to be pretty tedious affairs, but this one was completely different.

There were about sixty people there and lots brought home-made and often home-grown food, so we ended up having a bit of a party and a celebration of all that had been achieved. As we ate and chatted we heard from all the different activities that are taking place as part of Transition Chichester: there’s the bread-making group, the local orchard scheme, the energy group, the food mapping work, the heart and minds group, the community garden, the local currency scheme, Chichester gardenshare, reskilling workshops, the TC newsletter, the wastebusters food group… So many different things taking place and so many people involved in working to make Chichester a vibrant place with a sense of community and a commitment to responding to the challenges that face us.

If we were to add up the hours of unpaid work that TC people do it would be quite staggering, and of course TC is just one small part of the huge amount of volunteering work that people do, in Chichester and all around the country. When I look out of my kitchen window and see the green that my estate is centred around, I know that the trees, the paths, the benches, the play equipment, the mosaic and bandstand, and the landscaping all represent years of volunteering work, all undertaken by a fantastically committed group of people who live on the estate.

In fact, nearly half of the adult population volunteers, putting in an average of four hours a week and contributing around £40 billion a year to the national economy. Volunteering is a great way of putting our natural or learned skills to other uses. It gives us the scope to take the activities that we enjoy doing and use them for the benefit of others. For some of us, it can be a chance to do something completely different from our paid work. For all of us, it is an opportunity to do our bit at a time of so much need.

So, what better way to start the new year than with a Volunteer Revolution, brought about by people who love others, giving their time to the community around them, and prepared to do it for the long term when the first flush of enthusiasm has gone?

I would guess that many of you reading this volunteer in one way or another, which is fantastic, because green living to me is not only about the individual things that we can do in our lives to reduce our environmental footprint, but is also about our use of time. And what a great way to use our time: doing things that build community and help reach for justice in our world. Let us celebrate all the wonderful volunteering work that is done by so many people and encourage those of us who are able, to get out and find ways to help both people and planet.

Do you volunteer in any way? Share what you do here and let’s build up a picture of all the different ways that people are involved in things outside of their own immediate concerns.

If you don’t volunteer, I hope this post will inspire you to think of what you might be able to do, and then give you the encouragement to get out and do it.

(*If you haven’t heard of the Transition movement, they are groups of local people who want to find a way of responding to the twin issues of climate change and peak oil. Their strapline is, ‘from oil dependency to local resilience’, and the general attititude is, ‘we can’t hang around waiting for governments and councils to get their act together on this, let’s just get on with it and do something ourselves’. So they tend to do lots of awareness raising and practical local actions, with a wonderful emphasis on building community, as much as on individual responses.)

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Joanna January 10, 2014 at 7:23 am

    At this moment in time, I’m doing the opposite and looking for paid employment. For years I have volunteered and that is how I came to be living in Latvia, as I used to come with my family and teach English in children’s camps. I got to do some teaching in Brazil for a prophecy conference, because I paid my way. I have done so much on a voluntary basis and it has been incredibly enriching, from children’s work to organising the painting or cleaning of people’s houses who are on benefits, from helping with the reading in school to helping a neighbour return their cows to their field. For the last seven years, my husband and I have lived off savings and helped out where we can and now Latvia feels more like home than the UK. In 2012 I completed a Masters in Managing Sustainable Rural Development and during that I interviewed lots of farmers and ministry officials to get their views on hunting and wild boar population control, it was an interesting exercise and may have had influence on national guidelines – they say it did, but they might have just been polite about it, if I’m being realistic. I don’t think I could have done that with a full time job and it was certainly a form of voluntary work. I am also putting my skills to use, by helping a friend to work on a plan for a protected site of special interest for nature. But right now, what I need is some paid employment, putting to use all those skills I have learnt over the years through the voluntary work I have done. Easier said than done!

    • Reply ruthvalerio January 10, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      Good stuff Joanna, thanks, and all the best as you look for paid employment – I hope you’re able to get just what is right for you.

  • Reply nomanisanisland2013 January 10, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Hi Ruth. Over the festive period I volunteered at a local Christmas lunch for older people at St Peter’s Baptist Church in Worcester. I helped to set up for the lunch and serve the food, but most importantly spent time chatting and laughing with the guests. At the end of the day I could see what a difference this community event had made to the lives of the people who came – everyone left with a smile on their face. I have written more about the day on my blog http://nomanisanisland2013.wordpress.com/ which explores issues around loneliness. I think encouraging more people to volunteer in their communities could be key to tackling loneliness among older people and I hope your great post inspires more people to think about what they can do to help.

    • Reply ruthvalerio January 10, 2014 at 10:32 pm

      that’s lovely, really nice to hear. Greg (my husband) used to run a Christmas lunch for homeless people where we live – he did it for a few years and it was great.

  • Reply sally shaw January 16, 2014 at 6:57 am

    Hi Ruth, I’ve been part of the Transition movement for a number of years. Our group has had times of great activity and involvement from lots of people. We’ve seen people come and go but at present our group feels ‘tired’ as efforts to recruit new members has proved futile. Those of us left don’t have the time and/or energy to continue with the same enthusiasm. Perhaps our Transition group needs a break?! Any suggestions?

    • Reply Joanna January 16, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Just some thoughts as I read your comments Sally. Is it time to actually do a stock take? What is the vision of the group? Visioning exercises are good for helping us to remember where we are heading, but then by backcasting – which basically means working backwards from the vision – we can work out how to get there and the goals we need to achieve along the way. When we are tired, it is good to make some smaller goals that seen more achievable, but at least are heading in the right direction. In a time when the Transition network is seeking to expand, it must seem quite disappointing not to be growing, but if that is the focus then it will be tiring. If looking to support each other in living an alternative lifestyle that is kinder to the earth we live on, then it might be less tiring.

      How about meals together with just local foods? We should eat more meals together, I think. It has a way of drawing people together and is much more fun than just sitting around talking about an issue. It is often easier to invite people to eat and start a discussion that way, after all that is the philosophy of Alpha Groups.

      • Reply ruthvalerio January 16, 2014 at 5:39 pm

        meals are always good – make sure a group is friendly and sociable!

    • Reply ruthvalerio January 16, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      Hi Sally, I’ve actually put your question up on my FB page and am getting various responses that you might like to see. All the best to you, and thanks for being in touch, Ruth

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.