Volunteering has been around for centuries and is recognised as invaluable both to individuals and the community by the Scottish Government. To date, approximately 48% of adults in Scotland have volunteered, giving 361 million hours of help and contributed more than £2 billion to the Scottish economy per year.
Celebrating the contributions volunteers bring to organisations and the wider community is important and we are thankful that we can express this gratitude further during this Volunteers Week, June 1-7. After all, our foundations are built from the kindness of volunteers.
Volunteers are a crucial part of Aberdeen Cyrenians. Our history is steeped in the life-changing impact of volunteering. We started life as a soup kitchen in 1968 run by student volunteers in the Castlegate area of Aberdeen.
Our pool of dedicated volunteers supports us to carry out vital activities such as delivering food parcels, sorting donations, supporting activities for service users, and helping the charity behind the scenes. These are all essential in keeping Aberdeen Cyrenians running, reaching those in need promptly and aiding our specialised staff to focus on 1-1 support.
Every day we are fortunate to encounter amazing individuals and organisations who support people who are experiencing challenges in their lives and require a helping hand or a friendly ear. Volunteering has a wide variety of benefits, have a read of some examples below.
Make A Difference to Lives
Volunteering creates real impact and contributes to making a difference to lives. Over 90% of volunteers feel they make a difference through volunteering, either to an individual’s life, or a group, or issue in society.
Sitting having a cup of tea and chat, running an activity, collecting donations, sorting clothing and food provisions, makes a huge difference to individuals who are experiencing crisis and social exclusion. Volunteers contribute to helping people feel included and supported.
For Lindsay, who has volunteered in our warehouse for over 10 months, making a difference to lives is important; “I started volunteering with Aberdeen Cyrenians because their work is close to my heart, and I want to help. I really enjoy it and can see the difference made in the community.”
Corporate volunteering is a brilliant way to get out of the office and strengthen teams in the unified goal of making real difference by providing a brighter future for the community.
Making a difference to lives is particularly important for Aspect: the Strategic Communication Experts, who volunteered with us last December. Leona Minellas, Communication Director, recently said:
“The benefits of volunteering for staff and charities alike are undeniable. At the outset of Aspect, we introduced a days’ paid volunteering into our employee benefits programme, and we are delighted to now officially partner with Aberdeen Cyrenians to anchor this activity in our community.
As we operate a team with people across Scotland, use of our volunteering day means we can bring everyone together to strengthen our own bonds, while empowering Aberdeen Cyrenians and those they support at the same time.”
Give Back to Local Community
Volunteering is a wonderful way of connecting with and supporting your local community. Volunteers are invaluable in the work they provide and the difference they make by giving back to the local community.
Mereke, who is a translator and one of our volunteers who offers support in our food store, believes it is important to help the local community because “it keeps me active, and I get to meet a lot of new people…it is much more rewarding than sitting at home scrolling social media.”
The benefits of volunteering by giving back to the local community is also important for organisations. Piper Sandler rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in with their spade and bucket tidying up gardening space last year because they wanted to give back to the local community.
Jadine Douglas, Marketing Coordinator for Piper Sandler reflected on the day; “Our volunteering day at Aberdeen Cyrenians not only brought the team at Piper Sandler closer together but gave a real sense of giving back to the local community. The team at Aberdeen Cyrenians couldn’t have been more grateful which emphasised how much our efforts were appreciated.”
Socialise and meet new people!
It is also important to recognise that volunteering is great for reducing isolation by socialising and meeting new people. In a National Council for Voluntary Organisations survey nine in ten volunteers reported social benefits from volunteering and said they have met new people. Volunteering offers the opportunity to meet new people from varied backgrounds, socialise, and can help with feeling connected with others providing a sense of belonging.
One of our long-standing volunteers, Dave, who has been with us for 9 years loves driving for us and enjoys “the social aspect of meeting the other volunteers, over the years.”
As well as actively making a difference, socialising, and contributing to society, volunteering can positively impact on a person’s overall health. Studies have found that the impact volunteering can have is positive, with some suggesting people who volunteer regularly enrich their general and mental health.
Volunteering helps a person to experience a “warm glow”, or the positive and rewarding feeling we get when we ‘give’ to others.
We feel good when we help others and in turn that helps us and increases a sense of social connection.
Additionally, we are grateful to our corporate volunteers who appreciate the importance and benefits of volunteering such as Aker Solutions. Ryan Fernando, Manager – PMO with Aker Solutions commented; “Last year we implemented an employer supported volunteering scheme enabling employees to give back to their local communities.
The main driver behind this was the large impact we could provide by assisting charities like the Cyrenians, with tasks they can’t do or have time to get to. But with an additional benefit of promoting a better work-life balance, creating stronger, more connect teams and ultimately having happier and more engaged staff.”
Feel part of a team
At Aberdeen Cyrenians, volunteers are an integral part of the team, helping us to support people who are experiencing adversity in our community. We respect and value all our volunteers and were delighted to celebrate and thank them recently during our Volunteer Appreciation lunch where Mike Melvin from ACVO handed out Volunteer Week pins to everyone.
During the visit Mike said, “volunteers make a tremendous contribution in Aberdeen and across the whole country. Aberdeen Cyrenians volunteers makes such a difference for people in the community and, on behalf of ACVO, I extend a huge, Volunteers Week thank you to all at Aberdeen Cyrenians for everything you do.”
We are delighted that ACVO recently also visited our warehouse and interviewed some of our volunteers there. The filming will be screened as a special Volunteers Week ACVO Members Event – Volunteering in Aberdeen Networking Event, Aberdeen Arts Centre on the 7th of June.
Whether you would like to volunteer individually or as part of a corporate team we have a variety of opportunities available.
Contact us today to learn more about our volunteering opportunities www.weareac.org/volunteering
Thank you again to all our wonderful volunteers. Have a look at the special message from myself in the video here.