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What have you done today to make you feel proud?

On Friday I underwent an intensive afternoon of indoctrination.
On Sunday as well to some extent (at the very laid back Folk by the Oak at Hatfield House) although that was several hours of fiddles and stranger musical instruments persuading me – fairly effectively – that with a beer in the hand and the sun beating down folk music can be rather fun.
On Friday, however, I attended “Go Local” which was a (not quite as well organised as it thought it was) concert thing that took place in the nascent beginnings of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Part of the legacy programme for the Olympics (was it really a year ago?) includes making use of what my company tended to spout as its most valuable commodity – people. Or in this case the thousands of volunteers of various garish colour of uniform that made everything work pretty smoothly at London 2012.
Personally I was one of Boris’ men, as a London Ambassador, and had a whale of a time, and I think that was most people’s experience of volunteering at the events. Tiring, sometimes frustrating but still something that put a spring in your step because you were part of something greater and “giving something back”.
So the point of this event was to launch the legacy volunteering project Join In (https://www.joininuk.org/) both to get those who might have picked up the volunteering bug in the Olympics/Paralympics and be looking to exercise it again and more pointedly to get the already converted to twist the arms of their partners/families/friends to get out and do something too.
Now, I volunteer once a month at an English Heritage property so I am kind of in the “already working but could always do more category”, but I think after an entire afternoon of Lord Coe, Eddie Izzard, and a (really on form at his bumbling best) Boris extolling just how wonderful we were last year and just how amazingly important it was to sign up to do something ongoing in our local communities I was starting to feel a little bit like a goose being force fed to provide a rich pate of philanthropy.
And by the way had we signed up? We wouldn’t be allowed to leave until we did, we were told.
It turns out they were actually joking about that one but at times I was not quite sure and I had wondered if I had in fact brought the lovely wife to some sort of new cult initiation ceremony where we finish by burning an effigy representing the final death of public funding (for anything).
I think that this member of the choir being preached to is sold on volunteering in any capacity for any cause that drives you.
I find doing anything – even if it is hard work – because you want to rather than have to, and that, in theory, you can walk away from it at any time is very relaxing and affirming. I’d encourage anyone to find something and find the time to lend a hand. It does not have to be a big commitment – I guess for me, my Wrest Park work is half a day once a month. However, not everything can be backfilled by the voluntary sector. You need to still fund the backbone of any key services, and have a structure in place where people are actually held accountable for that service. At Wrest Park, the volunteers are there to be friendly and helpful. The employed staff is there to take the money and handle complaints and policy questions in addition to being a welcoming smile. We are told specifically not to engage in any of those activities – we are not qualified to do so.
If you take other sectors that certainly could benefit from more bodies lending an hand (such as health, education, prisons etc) it becomes even more important to have the professionals qualified and funded and doing the jobs that they only are qualified to do as unfortunately many volunteers – enthusiastic and wonderful though they may be -might just not be the right people for a particular role.
I certainly do not want to be negative, and I am looking forward to a time in retirement that I can help in other areas that interest me, for example in youth mentoring. But while it is right to encourage people to engage in their communities a bit more, the voluntary sector is not a panacea and there has to be the right balance with a formal structure.
As I say, they did let us out in the end and the only burning was on those who forgot to apply the SPF 30.
And it was an experience to witness the spectacle of poor McFly getting dragged off stage before the end of their (up to then excellent) set through no fault of their own, the previous brainwashing sessions having taken the event well over an hour over time. Maybe they need a professional timekeeper.
It would never have happened at a folk festival.
(And by the way, thanks to Heather Small for the title, I’m still hugely sucked in by the 2012 bid promotional video http://vimeo.com/28381929, especially in retrospect.)


One thought on “What have you done today to make you feel proud?

  1. Heard an interesting sermon on Sunday in Wales, congregation of 6 retired people, 3 middle aged, along the lines of What is the future for the church? It used to provide health services, social services and education. now what does it offer?

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