The first week in June is always Volunteers' Week, run by NCVO. It's a great reminder to all organisations to say thank you to volunteers. It's great, because as a nation we don't always think to thank the people who help us. My job is supporting volunteers and highlighting the work they do, so Volunteers' Week is very special to me.
I'm a serial volunteer myself. I have been a motorsport volunteer for around 40 years, and I volunteered with my local childminding group and county association before becoming a volunteer for PACEY (then NCMA). Joining my local childminding group changed my life. It helped me up my game and understand the importance of peer to peer support. I was a childminder for 20 years and continued to volunteer for PACEY when I finished my childminding career.
Perks of volunteering in motorsport
Then some stroke of luck meant I got literally the best job I could have ever have imagined: Volunteer Officer at PACEY - working with and supporting PACEY's wonderful volunteers.
Volunteering - why do it?
People volunteer for lots of reasons and they often get little that's tangible in return. It's hard to explain, but what they do get makes the hours they give worth while. One of our volunteers said recently that she volunteered to help others because she wished someone had been around to help her. That's brilliant logic and it makes good sense. Others help their peers because it's in their nature to give support and it gives them a real buzz to see people grow in confidence.
For me it's great to see our volunteers grow in confidence too. They put themselves forward for all sorts of things - sometimes way out of their comfort zone.
PACEY Volunteers include our Chair and Trustees who meet with the Chief Executive and Senior Management Team to make strategic decisions for the organisation. They all have an interest in childcare, but also have an understanding of business issues, such as finance, marketing or charity operations.
The childcare members of the board are all people I worked with as peers when I was a volunteer. Jane, PACEY's Chair, was a volunteer on the South East Committee for many years. Helen was a volunteer on the East committee, and Amanda was a volunteer on the Wales committee. Emma, who now owns a nursery, was a childminder in my local area. They've all continued to work in childcare while studying for degrees. Although my role doesn't involve working with the Board of Trustees I do keep in contact with them on a personal level and feel really proud of their achievements.
Jane, Helen, Amanda and Emma are all Trustees for PACEY
All our volunteers volunteer because they are passionate about childcare as a profession. They see the difference they can make to children's learning when they empower others and help them grow. There's no room for petty professional jealousies at their groups; no putting others down because they're not so knowledgeable. PACEY Volunteers are people who get satisfaction from helping others achieve; they don't have all the answers but they'll facilitate discussions where their peers can draw their own conclusions.
Facilitators have agreed to give a minimum of 25 hours a year to supporting others through the PACEY Local peer to peer support network. In reality a lot of them give so much more.
Rewards of working with volunteers
The definition of a volunteer is someone who offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking. Freely with no payment. It sounds crazy to some people (and there are sometimes those who would take advantage of their good natures).
The very special thing for me is that not only do I get to work with this wonderful group of volunteers but I get to know them really well and I'm proud of all their achievements.
PACEY really appreciates the time and effort they give and it's a pleasure when we can offer our volunteers opportunities to do something different. Speaking on TV; radio interviews; meeting with the Department for Education; meeting the childcare minister; and even attending a Royal Garden Party. Our volunteers are great ambassadors for childcare because they understand the issues and are prepared to speak out on behalf of their peers. They are a vital resource in helping us be a strong voice for childcare to Government.
PACEY volunteers attending royal garden parties in 2016
This Volunteers' Week will end in some very special celebrations as this year it has been extended to encompass the Queen’s Birthday Honours. The Honours are a perfect way for volunteers to be recognised for the work they do.