A volunteer for a year

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My name is Louise Croombs and I'm a volunteer. This summer marks 10 years since I began volunteering and a year since I began volunteering for Tameside Radio. I began my time at Tameside Radio interviewing people on our outside broadcasts and was delighted to find lots of different volunteers all over Tameside; each playing different roles within our community and making a contribution. I feel as if I've become a volunteer almost by accident and now it is something that has become a part of me and is a source of great pride. However, in these difficult economic times why on earth would people want to do something for nothing? I began volunteering in my 20s due to a conversation that I had with a friend about feeling sad about people with no family or friends to talk to. The friend suggested to me that I volunteer for the Samaritans. At first I wasn't sure whether it was the right thing to do but I looked into it and took my first step into volunteering. After a couple of years I decided to volunteer for different charities and organisations in order to change my career. I wanted to see if my love for history and talking could translate into something I could do for a living. I volunteered as a guide at a National Trust property and absolutely loved it. I then went on to volunteer for hospital radio and my love for radio began. I didn't set out to volunteer for 10 years but I loved it so much that it just naturally happened.

The first time that I noticed just how many different volunteers there were was when I volunteered for hospital radio. The hospital would have a meal each year for everyone who volunteered at the hospital in order to thank them. The first time that I attended the event I couldn't believe how many people were there. There were 100s of people attending. I sat with my colleagues from hospital radio knowing that many of the volunteers from the radio station weren't actually there. We were thanked by the Chief Executive from the Trust and each of the volunteering sectors was named. From entertaining the patients, to running shops, information and services, to befriending and supporting patients and relatives in many different departments. What they all contributed was truly staggering. Since that time it has fascinated me why people volunteer and how many services or charities would struggle without them. Many people volunteer without even realising it because they are helping a local group like a Scout Troop or doing litter picking.

I've set myself a challenge to journey around Tameside to find out what volunteers do, why they do it and who they help. There are well over 1000 charities and not-for-profit groups in the Tameside alone. I will spend some time each week not only finding out what they do but doing it myself so we can learn more. No job is too big or too small. I don’t think I will be following in the Mayor’s footsteps and jumping out of a plane though. I hope to find out how some of our local charities and organisations function and explore the truly vast array of volunteering opportunities available. If you volunteer too I hope to meet you on my travels. With over 23, 000 volunteers in Tameside that will be a hard task but I will try my best.