Since the London 2012 Olympic Games was successfully managed with the help of around 7000 unpaid workers, volunteering in London has been big news. Whether you are travelling from abroad and about to start a tour of Europe or just looking for a good addition to your CV, a volunteer project here can be really valuable. If you have journeyed from elsewhere, any kind of paid work or voluntary experience can help you to feel more integrated when faced with unfamiliar surroundings.
If you are an international volunteer, there are organisations who can help you find opportunities, as well as suitable accommodation and give general advice on how to volunteer abroad. Placements can vary from arts and crafts volunteers for workshops, to befriending the elderly in London care homes. If face-to-face work isn’t for you, there is also a demand for administration workers and creative individuals for fundraising and editing community newsletters such as Edge of the City.
For those who are already a resident in the UK, volunteering can start as simply as a few hours a week. Many people who have volunteered at home then go on to learn how to volunteer abroad. A recent project in Tottenham allows volunteers to help with public enquiries, book spaces for community groups and take key-holding responsibilities. There are current projects ongoing in Islington and Shepherd’s Bush to tackle homelessness and volunteers can contribute just by receiving calls on where people are sleeping out on the streets so that appropriate help can be offered to them.
There are also more unusual ideas such as guide dog training, in which volunteers care for and train young dogs in their own homes. Conservation is a bigger issue in London than you may think, as areas like Plumstead Common have been neglected and are in need of clearing and regenerating to improve the whole area. Volunteers really can respond to the specific needs of a place; in London right now there are refugee organisations requiring translators to convey advice and information for foreign nationals.
A great deal of the opportunities being created in the capital now are to aid those who are struggling with unemployment, to help regenerate run-down areas and reduce crime rates by giving young people worthwhile occupation. This means that many people are helping out people in very similar situations to themselves, so the level of understanding is good and important roles are being filled. As one example, an organisation in Battersea Park is currently recruiting for volunteers to help people back to work, whether this is improving their CV or assisting in the job search.
LIVING IN LONDON
So whether you are looking to enhance your travel experience in the UK, or are a resident wanting to build up your skills, volunteering is a solution which can give something back at the same time as gaining you something in return. The bonuses you receive from staying in an historic and lively city, alongside famous attractions like Buckingham Palace, an array of fine museums and a star-spangled nightlife are too many to mention. Moreover, with a population stretching the eight million mark, there are certainly plenty of people who can benefit from your time in London.
Maria Tilney is a freelance writer for a range of blogs and websites, covering far-reaching topics like social improvement, job seeking advice and foreign travel. In a typical week she writes about everything from work experience placements in Scotland to Spanish walking holidays and enjoys the research opportunities and frequent travel that her work brings.