(Warning: this is not your regular blog post.)
This week, we are shifting focus to something a bit different. The C&M team is currently promoting volunteering opportunities within Essex. We are in the middle of planning a team volunteering day. Some of us are trying to put our individual volunteering days to best use. (We get two days paid leave to volunteer!) And to top it all, we have a volunteer helping us with a public health campaign.
Readers, welcome to Summer of Volunteering.
What is Summer of Volunteering?
Summer of Volunteering is a campaign to drive awareness around volunteering, to celebrate the work of our volunteers across Essex and to encourage residents to get involved in helping their community.
It runs from 1 July to 30 September 2023, and during this time we will be highlighting local volunteering opportunities and how people can get involved. We will also emphasise the mutual benefits of volunteering and how it can enrich our lives.
Why are we volunteering?
What could be the best way to equip ourselves to persuade others to volunteer? Do some volunteering ourselves of course!
Some of us in C&M already help with wildlife protection work, baby and toddler rhyme time and Brownies. We are now investigating opportunities to use our professional skillsets by supporting Essex charities, and small and medium enterprises with their communications and marketing needs. So trust us when we tell you that volunteering does not have to take up a lot of time and can easily fit into your daily life.
The benefits of volunteering are numerous and multifaceted. Not only do we get to contribute directly to and bond with our communities, we get to make someone’s life easier. And the warm feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction we are left with is an added benefit. It’s also a good way to better understand the hesitations, concerns and barriers to volunteering, which in turn can be reflected in our communications.
Employees at Essex County Council get two paid days for individual volunteering plus two additional days for team volunteering. Last year, we collectively logged hundreds of working days for volunteering purposes.
This year too, teams within the council have been taking on various volunteering projects. Most recently, our People Insight, Technology & Performance team took part in an annual team volunteering day at Harlow Food Bank and our Entry to Work Team took part in a beach clean. We’d love to see that number increase. Cabinet members and Senior Leaders are rising to the challenge – so what’s stopping you?
Our volunteering stories
Our team member Charlotte Farrant talks about what volunteering means to her
Charlotte Farrant is a Campaigns Advisor, Communications and Marketing at Essex County Council. She talks about her experience of volunteering with Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA):
I started volunteering with RDA around 13 years ago. For years, I helped children with riding sessions. I currently work remotely on fundraising, as I no longer have the time to get involved in the weekly riding sessions. I also order volunteer and client uniforms, and help with any marketing advice that the group needs.
My association with RDA began when I was twelve years old, learning to ride myself. I often saw the disabled children at their afternoon sessions and decided to join my parent’s friend who used to volunteer with that group. Since then, I’ve worked with RDA on and off, helping whenever I could with riding sessions, feeding the horses and helping with odd jobs.
The benefits of volunteering are two-way. It has helped improve my people skills and confidence. If I have had a tough week, helping out at RDA and seeing that I’ve made a difference helps cheer me up. I also like being part of a bigger group whose members share a common interest. What I do is a very small thing, but each of us does our small thing and together we make big things happen.
A colleague recently asked me what motivates me to volunteer my spare time to RDA, when I could instead use that time to watch a movie or meet a friend for coffee. Well, I had this little story for her: I used to help a speech-impaired eight-year-old boy ride a pony. He was initially reluctant to engage with me. But within a few months he really took to a “beep-beep” game that the younger kids played, where everyone said “beep-beep” when another horse needed to walk past. He slowly began to engage with us and looked forward to the game. One day, as I led his pony, he tapped me on the shoulder with a massive smile, and started shouting “beep-beep” at the top of his voice. I suppose what motivates me is that massive smile!
Meet Frances Nwankwo, the volunteer helping us
Frances Nwankwo is volunteering with us to support Campaigns colleagues with Public Health work. She writes about why she chose this particular project with us, and what this volunteering opportunity means to her:
I recently finished a degree in public health and health promotion from Canterbury Christ Church University. I wanted to gain some work experience in the public health sector. But volunteering with the Communications and Marketing team at Essex County Council has been so much more. Working on campaigns that promote healthy behaviour among the public is important to me. My work can have an impact on society, while also giving me the chance to be creative. Professionally, this volunteering opportunity helps me gain some insight into how the working world works and helps me understand the organisation and its stakeholders. Personally, I’m enjoying meeting new people and gathering new knowledge. It is rewarding because it helps me to figure out my next step and what to do in the future. And it is also enjoyable because I get to do things that I have never done before!
No matter what your interest is and how much time you have to spare – we have a volunteering opportunity for you. Explore all the opportunities that are available at Essex this summer. You will definitely find one that you’ll love.