I’d never thought about volunteering before – Paul’s Story

My volunteering story is about a start of an inspirational journey. The specific role is not the important factor. The job was comparatively small really, but it was the catalyst and the trigger that delivered the first insight into how rewarding spending some hours helping others can be.

I’d never thought about volunteering before, I’d done lots a bits for various charities, run marathons, bike rides and suchlike, all fundraising rather than an investment in my time or skills specifically. Spending time assisting a cause had never really crossed my path before. But one event seemed to change that concept to leave a lasting legacy, and not only me, but many people countrywide. It was the London Olympics and Paralympics Games 2012.

The World was coming to visit, and London had been chosen to host. I answered the adverts that requested volunteer application, filled in the entry forms and eventually had interviews that led to being picked to be a volunteer. That started a lengthy training programme that led up to the start of the Games themselves. It was an exciting time. I remember getting off the tube at Stratford and striding into the Olympic Park, resplendent in the Games Maker purple and red uniform, a cross between sportswear and soldier, complete with shoulder straps, a style touch borrowed from the Grenadier Guards. There were always smiles from the Army personnel conducting the airport style security bag checks, and from then on my journey took a familiar route. I walked past the breathtaking modernist Aquatics centre, and onto the thoroughfare leading to the unmistakable outline in the distance of the Olympic Stadium. The skyline, though, was dominated by the bright red behemoth of the Arcelor Mittal Orbit sculpture, towering over everyone and everything that entered the park.

My role was in an IT Service Desk capacity. I would logon to the PC, browse the jobs and tickets that came up on any given day, and help out any other IT teams when required. Sometimes that would involve going out to the Velodrome to check on a printer fault, or over to the Handball arena to work on the security desk PC’s and suchlike.

It was a real pleasure to be able to assist, and the most enjoyable part was when helping the general public whilst on the way to other jobs. I would regularly be stopped and asked for directions and afterwards the appreciative smile and “Thank you” was always genuine, and showed that the smallest of favours made a difference.

The Olympic experience created a wave of volunteer good will, and spread out to have a vast affect on voluntary activities throughout the UK. The “Join In” group was developed from the email list of all the Olympic Games Maker volunteers and has regular drives and events to help sports clubs and events all over the country and helps to encourage healthy lifestyles through sport, engaging the help of those volunteers.

The ‘Team London’ and ‘Do It’ websites now have swathes of opportunities to choose from, all types of roles and areas, ranging from one or two hours work, going right through the spectrum of regular hours and up to permanent engagements. There is something to suit everyone, to give a little or a lot more in commitment level.

So, that was the start of it all. My roles since, have been diverse and fulfilling. I have been leafleting and promoting ‘Dellow Nights’ a fundraising evening of art, music and food for the homeless charity Providence Row. I volunteered photography skills for ‘Bling Ya Bike’, a youth project encouraging cycling by customising bikes, scooters and skateboards, through artists spray painting the kids favourite colours and personal designs, as part of the Meltdown festival at the South Bank. My writing has been utilised here for the Voluntary Action Harrow group. Future roles that have been booked in my diary include bee keeping and honey extraction for the bee conservation group ‘Bee Collective’, ‘Grand Photography Day’ for Voluntary Action Harrow, and manning a pop up video booth for ‘WORLDwrite’ educational charity event at the Barbican Centre. I am also meeting other like minded friends through my accommodation, the charity DotDotDot Property social enterprise. Many more diverse and interesting roles are envisaged too.

So there you have it, my individual route into volunteering, fun, inspiring, varied and invigorating. What will yours be, why not have a go too?

Paul Johnson