Thursday, 9 June 2016

Volunteering. Why bother?!

Posted by Julie Howell on Thursday, 9 June 2016

(Transcript of video at end of post)

It's Volunteers' Week, so what better time to tell you about the things you can do with your spare time to support your local community.

You already know that I love Peterborough. I wasn't born here, but I have lived here for many years and it feels like home to me. Peterborough has been very kind to me, which is why I have decided to dedicate a few years to volunteering in my local community. What do I get out of it? Loads.

Parish Council

In May 2015, I decided to become a Parish Councillor and applied to be co-opted onto Orton Waterville Parish Council. I wasn't entirely sure that it would be 'my thing', but decided to give it two years and see how it went.

Turns out, it was one of my better life decisions. Parish Councils make all kinds of decisions on issues that affect the local community. Probably the most common topics that Parish Councillors get involved with are planning matters (we are statutory consultees), crime prevention, managing open spaces and campaigning for and delivering better services and facilities.  We're very fortunate on Orton Waterville Parish Council to have a full complement of Parish Councillors - 13 in all - three of whom are also City Councillors.

The best way to find out what your Parish Council does is by visiting the Orton Waterville Parish Council website.

I enjoy being a Parish Councillor so much, I decided to double my involvement. In June 2016, I was co-opted onto the neighbouring Parish Council for Orton Longueville. So now I cover the entire Orton area, and a little bit of Woodston too.

Being a Parish Councillor means I spend a great deal of time listening to residents' concerns, both between meetings and during the 'pubic forum' section of the formal monthly meetings. It's a real privilege to serve our local community in this way, and I love it.

Peterborough Arena

I became a volunteer Showmaker at Peterborough Arena in October 2015 and already I've provided voluntary help at a broad range of public events. Being middle aged(!) I was a bit concerned about whether I'd be fit enough to be of use, but it turns out the Arena offers voluntary opportunities to suit all abilities.

I have a lovely red uniform and I've performed a wide variety of duties, from taking photographs and distributing leaflets to stewarding for comedian Bill Bailey and assisting Great British Bake Off's Paul Hollywood! (You haven't seen true excitement until you've shepherded scores of excited ladies to 'the best seats in the arena!' so they can see the white's of Paul Hollywood's eyes.)

Paul Hollywood
Paul Hollywood
I'm in this picture but have cropped myself out so not to rub your nose in it.

The Arena team always takes good care of me and I look forward to my days with them (it's hard work, but doesn't feel like work). The best thing is meeting so many members of the public. Annual events like Truckfest and The Autumn Food & Country Fair attract local people and visitors from all over Europe. The Arena is an asset to Peterborough, as the events it hosts bring a huge amount to our local economy. The Arena itself is owned by the East of England Agricultural Society which is a registered charity. This is why volunteers are crucial to the venue's success.

If you would like to join me as a volunteer Showmaker, get in touch with Peterborough Arena and let them know!

Julie in her Showmaker uniform
In my snazzy Showmaker uniform

Peterborough Green Party

It would be remiss of me to omit to mention that we're ALWAYS in need of volunteers and new members at Peterborough Green Party. As you would expect, it's a hive of activity around election time. However, we're just as busy between elections, organising meetings and events and spreading the word about the work the we do around Peterborough. If you'd like to get involved, drop me a line at I'll be very pleased to hear from you.

Litter picking in Orton Southgate
Fellow Green Party member Alex Airey & I litter-picking in Orton Southgate

What About You?

These are three of the places where I volunteer. What could you do to support your local community? If you like to get involved with events then Vivacity is always on the lookout for enthusiastic volunteers. If you'd prefer something less physical or are not sure what kind of volunteering you'd like to do the best place to start is Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service.

Special note for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing
Here's a transcript of the video....
So one of the places I do my volunteering is Peterborough Arena. The Arena is the building, now an arena, on the Peterborough Showground. There’s lots of reasons why I like being a volunteer working at the Arena. There’s lots of reasons for it really. Partly it’s, you know, to be involved in my local community. The Arena, I live very close to it, and the Arena are our neighbours so it’s good to give something back to them. They are a good neighbour you know. Yes it can be noisy with some of the things that they have there, but it’s always at scheduled times, and they are very understanding if ever there is a problem with noise in particular they go and sort it out, which is great. Part of being a community isn’t just doing the things that serve you. So I like to go along there and I help with things like handing out leaflets, helping with crowd control, and being a marshal, helping people get to their seats, helping people get the most out of the event. It’s not just people who live here who come to these events. People come from far afield to events that are held at the Showground, like Truckfest and we had Bill Bailey here the other week. And it’s just great for Peterborough. It brings tourists here. It brings people here that spend money on local hotels and in local shops and that is a good thing for all of Peterborough so I’m very proud of that. We have a lovely red uniform that we get to wear. I like it. It gives me a sense of pride that I’m involved with something. So I would look again at volunteering. You might think oh it’s, you know, it’s something tedious and you don’t get anything from it. But honestly, I love it. And the opportunity to spend the day talking with people who are excited because they’re at an event that they’ve been looking forward to for ages is really wonderful. So if you get an opportunity, give it a go. And they’re always looking for Showmaker volunteers here so do get on their website and get in touch with the Arena.

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