My biggest volunteering commitment currently is the Charnwood BRAS (you can find us here and here) I'm a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter. This means that sometimes I sit in Sure Start Children's Centres working with a Health Visitor or Nursery Nurse (and I do work with two really super ones) to support new mums in their breastfeeding journey. Sometimes I zip off to someones house for a morning or afternoon to get them through a critical point and help them keep going. I also deliver workshops, we have antenatal sessions but mostly I lead the 'Returning to Work or Study' seminar. However MOST of my volunteering with the BRAS isn't that glamorous, it's running the Facebook page (not just on my own), baking cakes, writing new leaflets, press releases, case studies and the all important paperwork to prove that I'm worth the money they don't pay me.
I'm currently in the middle of 'Nearly New Sale' season with the NCT. I volunteer (and sell) at both the Loughborough and Leicester sales which are both close to being the biggest sales of their kind in the UK. Theoretically this is only 6 days 'work' a year but even without getting my own stuff ready for sale it mushrooms out of all proportion, what with printing signage and stuff. This particular volunteering is the closest I get to paid work these days as not only do I sell stuff but the volunteers pre-sale 'thank you' enables me to kit out the kids without it costing a fortune - I swear I have never paid more that £3 for a winter coat for example. If you have small kids and you are not involved in your local NCT sale I suggest you find out more about it now.
You may have spotted that I'm hooked on crochet. I owe a huge thanks to my lovely friend and 'oh-my-god-mother' to my kids for teaching me how to do it just 18months ago, since then it has become an obsession. I have made plenty of items for the school PTA (for whom I also do other volunteering) which we sell at seasonal fairs but I have particularly enjoyed making a small contribution to the work of the KGB. This is not (in case you were worried) the security arm of the Soviet Union but an 'arts' group - the Knitting Guerillas of Birstall. They yarn bomb the local area generally brightening up the place and making it a cosier place to live. I like it because I love modern art (even if this is a very middle class version), I think it challenges what society think of knitting and crochet and come to that, volunteering (I give my time, skill and wool for free) and because it makes me smile.
I'm also involved with La Leche League where I'm just starting training to be a group leader and a couple of 'Fertility' based groups and of course I don't just write this blog I also have my food blog The Trials of the Inclusive Cook, but the last organisation that I really want to tell you about is one that it feels like doesn't take any of my time at the moment, The Leicester Masaya Link Group. The LMLG is a non-governmental organisation and charity which manages the town-twinning link between Leicester and Masaya in Nicaragua. Official twinning was established in 1987 and since then, the LMLG has worked to develop and maintain an exchange of contacts between the two cities by co-ordinating projects aimed at enriching life in both cities. Before my girls were born I did a lot of voluntary work there but my main role now is supporting the Chair of the organisation, he's my husband. It turns out we can't both go to evening committee meetings because someone has to stay at home with the girls (and daytime office work isn't an option with a baby in tow) but I am VERY proud of the work he and our 'paid worker' do (it's in inverted commas because I know she gives far more of herself than what we pay for) and it is a pleasure to attend weekend events and fundraisers.
Why do I do so much volunteering? Because it's rewarding, it makes me feel worthwhile and that helps keep my mental health a float in so many different ways and if you don't believe me read what the mental health charity Mind say here. Yes it takes a lot of my time but here's the thing, without wishing to sound big headed
I make a difference.