I set off on my volunteering adventure this week. As many volunteers do I started at Community and Voluntary Action Tameside or CVAT for short in Ashton to find out what volunteering opportunities there were in the area. They put me In touch with lots of different people and organisations that were looking for volunteers. I have called my column tea this week because in the many places I visited tea was very important. When you’re young and you are on work experience you soon learn the importance of making a good cup of tea. When you volunteer a good cup of tea could really help a lot and make someone’s day. I volunteered for the Stroke Association at a drop in centre on Monday and helped the volunteers make tea for those coming to the centre. I was invited to help at St Thomas Church in Hyde on one of their Heritage Open Days on Friday and I helped to make tea for people visiting. Although to be fair the lovely people at St Thomas’ made more cups of tea for me than I did for the public and I even went away with a homemade cake. This volunteering lark seems rather brilliant to me.
My biggest brush with tea was when I met Amy from the charity Tameside 4 Good. They help lots of local groups and organisations by providing grants that can be applied for throughout the year. They often have volunteers helping with lots of different things particularly fundraising. Amy had decided to take on the Guinness World Record challenge to make as many cups of tea in an hour with a 12 person team. It was the kind of challenge that I couldn’t turn down so I volunteered to be an adjudicator. I honestly thought it would be less pressure than having to make the cups of tea until I saw the rules which were about 18 pages long. There had to be a certain amount of teabags, water at an exact temperature and each cup had to have exactly the same amount of tea. There were three different types of tea that needed to be brewed and served each in the way was best for that tea. This was to raise important funds for Tameside 4 Good and Tameside deserve a World Record so I studied the rules and hoped for the best.
Saturday was a beautiful day and Ashton market looked wonderful. There were ladies in Victorian costumes, stilt walkers, a Punch and Judy show, deck chairs and even a beach. I had seen some sand dumped in the market square off the back of a lorry and I was a little confused at the time. Today it looked transformed. There were even two men in leotards who may have been acrobats. One walked around on the other’s shoulders so I will assume that. When I arrived all the cups were laid out and the urns boiling until disaster struck and the generator broke. It was a shame because I could really have done with a brew. Finally it was fixed and the challenge began. It wasn’t the most exciting start as the teams had to wait for the tea to brew but they were off. I spent an hour running up and down the tables. Measuring tea and checking that the rules were followed. I felt awful telling the teams that they had missed something or not filled the tea high enough. We needed every cup to count for the current record to be broken. The worst thing was feeling extremely thirsty throughout; tea, tea, everywhere and not a drop to drink. Once the tea was checked and noted down the public could give a donation for a cup of potentially record breaking tea. The green tea did not do well at all.
The teams seemed like they were miles from the record and then suddenly there was a flurry of arms and tea bags and thousands of tea cups were filled. The final countdown had begun, “Don’t forget the milk in the English Breakfast tea!” I shouted, just before the whistle blew to mark tea pots down.
The count began I counted with the other volunteer adjudicator Peter Cooke from Tameside College. Some teas didn’t quite make the grade. One we disqualified and then, with a plea from the team, measured again and allowed back in the count. The team had made over a thousand cups of tea. Smashing the previous record of just over 800 but the current record was 1608 and we had recorded 1072 cups. We hadn’t made it. Everyone was disappointed but to be fair that record is held by a tea urn manufacturing company. We were only a mixture of local councillors and local people. I spent the rest of my afternoon throwing the tea away from the many now cold cups. I was still quite thirsty.
I learnt over this week the importance of tea to comfort, refresh, raise money and push fun to new levels. As for volunteering, it can be difficult in our busy lives to find time to volunteer every week but a one off event like this can be lots of fun and wouldn’t be able to run without people to volunteer. Well done to all the volunteers this week that helped to open buildings, provide information and most importantly make tea over this Heritage Weekend.