As someone who, since having kids, spends way more time volunteering than getting paid, I shall mark Volunteers Week with a celebration of the pro’s and take a break from worrying about what’s happening with my career.
One of my volunteer roles is as an Ambassador for Oasis, which has got me into public speaking, previously unheard of! I spent an incredible day being trained in the art by the memorably clever, superlovely and funny BBC broadcaster Barbara Sturgeon. What a privilege. I met a whole room of like-minded women who are passionate about ending male violence against us. I’ve since volunteered myself to give talks about consent, myths around rape and domestic violence and gender stereotypes at schools, for community police and for the POW festival. Thanks to Oasis and Barbara. Your words help me step outside my comfort zone every time.
Charities such as Oasis need volunteers. The statistics that surround domestic abuse are staggering. Each year around 2.1m people suffer some form of domestic abuse in England and Wales - 1.4 million women and 700,000 men.10 Two women a week are killed by a current or former intimate partner men in England and Wales, a glance at the site Counting Dead Women tells us that so far this year 61 women have been killed by a male perpetrator. Without our support these charities are not able to do as much, they are not able to reach as many people, train as many professionals or go into as many schools to teach young people about consent, grooming or assertiveness.
Volunteering means contributing, in this case, to make people safer and to end the cycle of violence and abuse. Volunteering means meeting like-minded people. Your people. It can mean trying new experiences or it can mean putting your best assets to good use. It can mean getting people thinking about an issue in more depth. Oasis have so many wonderful volunteering options – from helping at their charity shop, in the offices or in one-off events.
Raising money to fund services is always very welcome. A few years ago I organised a beach BBQ to hurrah the start of the summer holidays. Local businesses kindly donated the food and drink and I asked families to pay a fiver to come. It took up a lot of time to organise. It rained relentlessly. But a nice man came and put his gazebo up in my garden, another cooked all those burgers and I now have a rapport with some people in the community. Domestic violence is still seen as a ‘women’s issue’ so it was great to see men in my social circle stepping up and saving the day.
I’ve been thinking that a great way to raise money is to organise an auction at a favourite venue but you can keep it small too. Host a film night and make cocktails for a fiver, put on a kids disco or picnic, take inspiration from Jean Hatchet (best known as @JeanHatchet) who is riding her bike for murdered women, or, as Margate’s Reading Rooms did, offer up something lots of people will want in an online raffle. As the volunteer organiser of the incredible Feminism in London conference told her fellow volunteers in an email this National Volunteer’s Week – ‘Be proud, be determined!’