Blue Monday – Volunteering To Help Others

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As 21st January – labelled the most depressing day of the year – hits, the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) are calling on people throughout Wales to give Blue Monday a rosy glow by volunteering their time at a local community group or charity.

As well as making a difference to others, Big Lottery Fund (BIG) research has found that volunteering can help to increase skills, confidence and self-esteem – a welcome antidote to the January blues. That’s why BIG has teamed up with WCVA to encourage more people to volunteer and shake off their post-Christmas blues. As the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in Wales, WCVA represents, and has links with, thousands of voluntary organisations throughout the country. 

BIG funds thousands of good causes throughout Wales, from respite help for carers, projects to help people overcome disabilities or illness, supporting children and young people to fulfil their potential, or regenerating parks and public spaces.

As well as volunteering for projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund, there are thousands of other activities and charities in need of support.

Highlighting the benefits of volunteering, Tim Day, Director of Volunteering and Policy at WCVA, said:  “Every volunteer will have their own story to tell as to why they do it and what they get out of it. For some it’s a natural way of life to get involved with their community, working together with others and doing what they care about.” 

Funded with £250,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s People and Places programme, the People and Wildlife project run by Gwent Wildlife Trust is always looking for new volunteers to help with the project and other projects and nature reserves they manage throughout the Gwent region. The People and Wildlife project works with volunteers at its Silent Valley Nature Reserve in the Upper Ebbw Valley and provides groups of young people who are not engaged in education, training or employment with experience of working in conservation to increase their practical skills and help them work better as a team to achieve a goal.

One person who can vouch for the benefits of volunteering for the project is 20 year old Sally Morgan from Brynmawr, Blaenau Gwent. Sally is a full-time carer for her father who suffers from chronic heart failure. Volunteering for the project has helped develop her skills and passion for environmental conservation and provides her with a much needed break from her caring responsibilities. Such has been the impact of her volunteering; Sally has now found work as Reserves Officer Assistant with the project and is studying towards an Open University degree in Conservation and Ecology.

“Through my involvement with the project I’ve learnt a lot of new practical skills related to the management of local green spaces for the benefit of wildlife but also as places for people to visit and enjoy being outdoors,” she explains.

“From just volunteering two days a week, I found I was learning new skills such as stock fencing, land management, identification skills and first aid; which made my caring aspect easier as no one in my family was first aid trained. I have attended numerous Gwent Wildlife Trust courses, talks and events, which has given me the opportunity to meet likeminded people and build lasting friendships, which would not have been possible previously. I’ve gained in confidence and I’m now studying towards an Open University degree.”

If you are interested in volunteering with Gwent Wildlife Trust, please contact Veronika Brannovic at Gwent Wildlife Trust on vbrannovic@gwentwildlife.org or call 01495 307525.

In Wales, the Big Lottery Fund is rolling out around £100,000 a day in Lottery good cause money, which together with other Lottery distributors means that across Wales most people are within a few miles of a Lottery-funded project.

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.

Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to Good Causes. As a result, over £29 billion has now been raised and more than 383,000 grants given out across the arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

For more information on volunteering opportunities in Wales visit www.volunteering-wales.net and you can also visit http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/ for information on the Big Lottery Fund.

If any of you are interested in applying for a Big Lottery Fund grant for a project, then let us at Wicid know and we will help you with your application.

This is a fantastic opportunity for anybody who’s looking to gain more experience with volunteering at a local community group or charity so get your volunteering hats on and wear them to wherever you decide to help out and gain invaluable experience that’ll support a good cause or two (or three).

Images courtesy of WeAreWhatWeDo and The Future Melting Pot.

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