Why volunteer? And for the sake of argument let’s include fund raising.
Earlier today I spent a couple of hours in one of the nicest places in Ireland being a marshal in a 10K race & walk held on the roads around Union Hall. Why did I do it? Firstly, because Susan asked me if I would, she is a volunteer for the local RNLI branch and some of the runners were raising funds for “the lifeboats”. Secondly, because I hadn’t done this activity here before. Third, and most important, it meant that by giving up some of my time to stand on a road looking out at Glandore Harbour other people were able to take part in a community event to do something that brought them together.
I have done these things for as long as I can remember. The early ones were the sponsored walks, the YogJog, in 1966,67, 68 & 69. when thousands of supporters of South Wales Young Oxfam Groups walked the 26 miles from Cardiff to Porthcawl. These events took place in October, leaving Cardiff at Midnight and heading off against the prevailing wind along the A48 to reach Porthcawl, and the buses home, at about 8am on Sunday morning.
There followed activities for “SCAN” – Student Community Action Newcastle when I was a student – this meant running a couple of Discos without a fee as fund raisers. (I felt I was doing the vinyl equivalent of the concerts for Bangla Desh and later Live Aid).
After University I joined Round Table and then Rotary, each organisation having as one of its aims to raise funds and awareness for others less fortunate. I have run in many races including several London Marathons where the only thing that kept me going through training and injuries was the fact that I had committed to a cause. But it is the volunteers at London and other events which makes them happen. The people who control the crowds, hand out the water, medals and sandwiches and stop the hordes hitting traffic bollards that really make the events happen. They are the vital cogs in the machine.
In addition, voluntary activities with British Dental Association (which have persisted beyond my clinical career) and support of the dental charities Bridge2Aid, Dentaid and The British Dental (now Oral) Health Foundation have meant my involvement in professionally related causes.
When we first moved to West Cork, Susan took part in a historical research where volunteers mapped old graveyards by recording position and inscriptions, where possible, on headstones. The Irish Diaspora is massive and the work has already helped people from around the world research their ancestors. She got to meet a lot of people, made friends and learned about the area and its history.
Why do it? Obviously, if I and my ilk didn’t there is a chance that things wouldn’t happen, that money wouldn’t be raised, that the causes like the RNLI, Marie Curie, Oxfam and dozens of hospices would not be able to do the work they do.
Also I wouldn’t have had the fantastic experiences that I have had in the generation of funds, the direct action and the making of friends.
So why don’t more people put their hands up, get off their sofas, give of their time, expertise and energy?