Over the last year volunteering hasn’t been out of the public eye. On any given night of the week you can watch volunteers clearing up after the London riots, the Hairy Bikers recruiting volunteer cooks for meals on wheels or Bill and Sian discussing the Big Society on Breakfast News. Yet despite all this publicity when I tell people where I work I am continually greeted with the same responses ‘I didn’t know there was a Volunteer Centre in Harrogate... are there lots of different volunteer opportunities... is it free?’
The fact is that while volunteering is much talked about there are still a lot of people that don’t know where to find out about volunteering or how to get involved. The old idiom ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ could just as easily be applied to volunteering ‘if you don’t know about volunteering in your local area you won’t volunteer in your local area’. So for the first time Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIOs) across the Harrogate District, lead by Harrogate Volunteer Centre, will be teaming up to run a summer campaign to promote local volunteering.
The Volunteer Harrogate 2012 campaign aims to raise awareness of the number and variety of different volunteering opportunities and where to find out about them. The campaign will get people to think about how volunteering could benefit them and will break down popular misconceptions about volunteering. Volunteer Harrogate 2012 will run throughout June and July and will comprise posters, articles and a photo competition in the local paper, talks at key employers, stands in the local libraries and supermarkets and the V in the Park event.
V in the Park will take place in the Sun Pavilions in Harrogate’s Valley Gardens on 8th July 2012. The event will be part of the Big Picnic, an annual family day run by a local voluntary organisation, which attracts over 5,000 people a year. Harrogate & Area Volunteer Centre has teamed up with different VIOs to showcase volunteering around 5 themes: Outdoors; Caring; Arts, Music and Culture; Teaching and Mentoring; ‘The Wildcard!’. Throughout the day VIOs will run interactive family-orientated activities (e.g. a Disabled Riding School is bringing a mechanical horse.) Volunteers from the different organisations will chat to members of the public about their own volunteering experience and Volunteer Centre staff will be on hand to give information and broker volunteers at the event. Approximately 30 - 40 volunteers will contribute towards running this event.
The Harrogate & Area Volunteer Centre aims to sign up 302 new potential volunteers during June and July 2012. The campaign will therefore have an immediate impact with more people in the District volunteering and therefore, for example, supporting more elderly or disabled people to live independently in the community, improving the local environment, running healthy activities for kids, etc. The campaign will also have a long-term benefit: Increasing the general public's awareness of where to find out about volunteering opportunities and increasing their understanding of how they could benefit from volunteering will mean that they will be more likely to take up volunteering and continue volunteering in the future.
If we are fortunate enough to receive the IVO Volunteer Week prize the money would go towards the cost of running V in the Park, this includes the cost of: venue hire, refreshments for the volunteers and promotional materials (inc. banners, information leaflets).