Reflections on volunteering from our new trustee, Kevin Pallister
I have had the privilege of volunteering at Sneinton Foodbank (based at the Salvation Army and overseen by Hope) for some four years and was pleased recently join Hope as a Trustee. As I have moved towards full retirement from work the call to volunteer became stronger. I am prompted to share these thoughts by the recent volunteer survey issued by Hope, seeking to draw out information from volunteers regarding their motivation.
A simple definition of volunteer is; `a person who works for an organisation without being paid`. This is rather bland is it not?! Then we find; `a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task`. This seems to have a little more meaning to it but still lacks something in the context of Hope. Finally, the Cambridge Dictionary puts it like this:
(A volunteer is….) 'A person who does something, ESPECIALLY HELPING OTHER PEOPLE, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it'.
The above definition perhaps begins to reach the heart of volunteering in our context. I have added the words in capital letters. Food is a basic human need. In providing it to those who are in need of it we are helping them. I suspect that this is a very common motivation for Hope volunteers. However, we know that the requirement for food is but one need for many who visit our Foodbanks. There are often underlying issues and life experiences which also negatively affect people’s self-esteem, mental health, family relationships and so on. It is therefore vital that we help people in such a way that they might feel able to address those issues with more confidence and a greater feeling of security and significance in life. Therefore, small acts of kindness and care (even a smile or a word of greeting) can make a difference. This also often makes us as volunteers feel better too! I have no doubt that help with love and care is common practice throughout the Hope network – we certainly endeavour to do so at Sneinton.
A culture of care and Christian love is at the heart of Hope’s vision and values – aiming to build communities of hope. It is a strong human instinct to help those in need, however it is not a universal one. It is not unusual for us to encounter people seemingly without hope. Jesus gave the ultimate example of love and care for others, bringing hope to others in His ministry. Whether or not you have yet to claim a faith experience (be it Christian or otherwise), I encourage you to keep on helping others, aware that through the manner in which help is given, we as volunteers can be a tremendous help to folk in more ways than we might see at first hand. God bless us in our helping!