We are nearing the end of National Volunteer's Week and our next blog has been written by our Volunteer Coorodinator Rebecca. Rebecca joined us at the end of 2014 as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project and since then our volunteer programme has flourished.
“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day for the kind of community you want to live in.” (Unknown)
The UK’s Office of National Statistics estimates the value of volunteers to the economy as £23.9 billion.
This Volunteers’ Week, I want to write very briefly about what a privilege it is to work with our diverse volunteer team. As Volunteer
Coordinator, my role is to bring our volunteers on board and find fulfilling roles for them helping the museum. Whether that’s helping organise the collection, dressing up as a Victorian at a special event, taking on a new research project, developing a new school workshop, assisting with important admin or serving tea and cake in our tea room there’s a massive range of volunteer roles here.
In my mind, it is one of the great successes of our Heritage Lottery Fund funded project that it has allowed us to develop our volunteer team far beyond the restrictions it was under before. Working with volunteers takes time and resources and the HLF project has allowed us these. Since the start of the project, we’ve met new people who are interested and passionate about the museum nearly every week. We’re always adding new people to the team. They have contributed immeasurably. Not just in terms of doing the tasks we don’t always have time for, as a small staff team, but in the very nature of their diversity.
Much is made of the benefits of volunteering, for the volunteer. These are many and varied. Volunteering is even supposed to make you live longer. But the benefits for us, as a museum, have been terrific. We have new voices, new creativity, fresh eyes on our day to day work. Our volunteers are members of the community this museum seeks to represent and serve. Our volunteers bring the community to the heart of the museum. And in doing so, they make us a better museum.
I began this blog with the quotation at the top, something I read for the first time earlier in Volunteers Week. It really hit home with me. Our volunteers are making sure our museum is the kind of museum they want to be involved in, which people like them want to visit. But they are also making sure that heritage is valued in our community, that families have somewhere to
explore history and the arts, that our special events can provide fun and nostalgia and that the museum can serve its purpose as a repository of the collective memory of Erewash, through artefacts, archives and the stories we collect and tell. Volunteers make our museum better and, through doing so, allow the museum to be as important to the community as it is. We couldn’t do it without them.
I included the figure from the Office of National Statistics at the start of this blog to show the measurable impact of volunteering on the country. But volunteering has an impact far beyond the financial. It is about wellbeing, society, community and working together. It is my privilege to work with volunteers every day. To meet someone new, slightly shy and uncertain, and see them blossom into a regular volunteer who feels part of our team is a wonderful experience. I see every day how volunteering benefits volunteers and I now want to draw attention to how much our volunteers benefit us as well.
So, to all of our volunteers, past, present and future, short or long term, whether you give an occasional hour or come in for whole
days on a regular basis: THANK YOU. We value you. We wouldn’t be the museum we are without you.