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.