We’ve been super excited that people who are signing up to take part in making PEOPLE are also sharing their stores of volunteering with us. The stories are so wonderful we wanted to compile them and share them with you here. They are also published across our social media platforms.
Sign up to take part in PEOPLE and share your story with us!
Gloria first started volunteering fifty years ago, joining the Parent Teachers Association at her children’s school, organising fundraising events. She is currently chair of a local history group, the Old Plymouth Society, arranging talks & walks.
In 2003 she became a Tree Warden at Thorn Park and Mutley Park, looking after the wellbeing of the trees. She helped compile a book, ‘Plymouth’s Favourite Trees’ through the Plymouth Tree Partnership, and all the profits from the book go towards planting trees in school grounds.
“My biggest project by far was planting trees in Central Park to celebrate the Queens Jubilee in 2012. We raised over £10,000 from local businesses to enable a new row of trees to be planted from Barn Park to the Clock Tower, known today as Jubilee Row. It was through my efforts as a Tree Warden that I was nominated for, and won, Volunteer of the Year Award”.
Vanessa is a careworker for NHS professionals. She volunteers with Nudge Community Builders at The Millenium project, the former night club on Union Street which is currently being restored as a music venue.
“It's very exciting being part of this and I've got to meet some lovely friendly people. I wanted to see this building be given back to the people of Plymouth as they and Union Street really need this.”
Muhunthiny has been volunteering for over 25 years, teaching Tamil and Hinduism, in person and now over Zoom. She has been involved with Brownies, Sea Cadets and Ambulance Cadets. She is the treasurer of the Devon and Cornwall Tamil Sangam, a language school teaching Tamil.
“I mainly work 7 days a week, but I always use my spare time for the community - I love to return something back to the community.”
Since retiring as Associate Professor in Sociology at Plymouth University, Mike has been volunteering as a marshal at the Home Park mass vaccination centre, where he has been witness to amazing examples of human compassion, determination and solidarity.
“A week before Christmas 2021, I left the vaccination centre at midnight at the end of a very busy shift. The atmosphere had been tremendous, everyone giving their all, with a streamlined process finessed over the previous year. There were queues, and a few grumbles, but I lost count of how many thanks we received. The next day I learned 6000 booster jabs were delivered that day at Home Park.”
Mike is also Chair of Swarthmore Allotment Association in Plymouth, aiming to support allotment gardeners in their healthy and productive activity. And he is Vice Chair of the retired members’ branch of the University and College Union in South West England.
“These three examples (of volunteering) may seem different, but for me connect through the idea that as individuals we can contribute to achieving social justice and improved life experiences. Most of all when we act together, recognising the value of community and solidarity.”
Becky has been volunteering with the Rainbow Guide unit in Plymstock for the last 23 years, running the unit with her sister and mum. Her family has always been involved with volunteering, and when Becky was diagnosed with epilepsy at 15, her parents began running the Epilepsy Support Group in Plymouth, helped out by Becky and her siblings.
Becky has volunteered with Sure Start centres, youth clubs, community theatre projects, food banks, climate change events, charity fun days, political events and local sports clubs. “Volunteering has always been a massive part of my life. I enjoy helping others and creating lasting community bonds. It has also helped me grow into the person I am today. Since being unable to work over the last 10 years, volunteering has meant even more to me. It has meant that I can still feel like I am a productive and valuable part of society. Volunteering has helped me just as much as I've helped others and it's saved me on many occasions. Through volunteering I've had incredible experiences and made lifelong friendships."
Kavitha is a freelance UI designer. She has been volunteering with the Climate Hub, designing social media posts, and recently was a volunteer marshal for the Ocean City Marathon. Kavitha is currently volunteering as social media coordinator for NCT Plymouth & West Devon.
“I would like to share my designing knowledge one or the other way to help our society - a little contribution from my side”.
Rebecca volunteers for Girlguiding in Plympton. Her role is a Ranger Assistant Leader working with girls aged 14-18. She is also the Assistant Division Commissioner, supporting other volunteers, promoting Girlguiding in the local community and getting involved with events and recruitment.
“I love our team who all work to make sure our young members learn, have fun and try new things every week. Our heritage is really important to me too – Guiding is over 100 years old and it’s an organisation I’m proud to be a part of, plus I love a campfire with the traditional songs and cooking. I started as a Rainbow when I was 5 and then became a volunteer as soon as I was old enough. Even moving away to university didn’t end my volunteering and then when I moved overseas for a few years in Switzerland and the Netherlands, there were local groups I could join, so it was a great connection to home. We’re always looking for new volunteers though in a variety of roles so I’d love to be able to welcome you to our team.”
Rebecca’s day job also involves working with volunteers, she manages the Voluntary Services for University Hospitals Plymouth, with a team of 350 volunteers in a variety of departments and wards who give their time to support staff, give back to the NHS and help to improve patient experience.
Dani Hooper-Bennett and Shas Chilcott
Dani and Shas volunteer for Crohn’s and Colitis UK, organising quiz nights, pig racing evenings and attending local fairs to raise money and awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis. They have also held awareness stands at Derriford Hospital to chat to people who have been newly diagnosed or are not aware of the charity.
“We love volunteering! We can help other people with Crohn’s or Colitis, it’s great to chat to people who understand what you are going through. Also raising money means we might one day find a cure!”
Karen volunteers for Village Hub, a community organsation in Stoke Village, Plymouth. She has helped run childrens and toddler activities; done admin and book keeping; chaired meetings of residents and local government officials; undertaken home visits in the community; cleaned toilets; decorated streets; organised fun days; litter picked; been a trustee and generally had a lot of fun!
“I’ve never thought of volunteering as volunteering. Rather just something you do because it's meaningful. mutually supportive and a way of fitting into the great tapestry of society.”
Adrian has been volunteering at St Luke’s Hospice since 1998, as volunteer day care and warehouse driver, and currently helping with fundraising and events.
He also is a befriender/bereavement support volunteer as part of the hospice’s Social Care team.
“It is such a privilege when people let you into their lives at a traumatic time. A very important part of the role is listening, and then reminding them that they don’t have to face their fears alone.”
Adrian has just been selected by the Royal Voluntary Service as one of the UK’s Platinum Champions, which is a prestigious award marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
“I cannot imagine my life without the hospice, am so proud to be a part of such a wonderful charity, and wear my St Luke’s lanyard with pride.”
Chris was a submariner in the Royal Navy. He is a church steward and has recently volunteered for medical trials of a new drug which might improve hearing loss.
Chris has a long history of volunteering: “When our government asked for more Royal Voluntary Service volunteers I was one of the 600,000 new recruits but before ‘Covid’ I was already volunteering as a retail assistant in my local hospice fund raising charity shops, and before that I had assisted with Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and a Youth Club.”
Pauline is a retired special needs teacher who has been volunteering as an audio describer at the Theatre Royal Plymouth for over 11 years. An audio describer live describes the show, staging, characters, costumes and action, via headphones, to sight impaired people before and during the show. An art that took a lot of practice!
Pauline also volunteers as a guide at The Box & the Elizabethan House, “I have enjoyed chatting to the visitors and the staff when on duty…To my joy there is no paperwork!”
Stella was first introduced to volunteering at the weekly Devonport Park junior parkrun by her daughter Stephanie. Without volunteers this fun way to support young people to keep active would not go ahead.
Stella has also been volunteering for St Luke’s for a number of years, helping out at the annual Tour De Moor and recently the Men's Day Out.
“I volunteered at the St. Luke’s ‘Men’s Day Out’ for the first time this year and it was extra special, as St. Luke’s are celebrating their 40th year in 2022! It was a real buzz when (most men) came back from the walk for their beer and pasties!”
Sarah spent time during the Covid Pandemic volunteering at Plymouth Argyle Football Club within the Vaccination Centre. Sarah was responsible for checking people in, guiding them through the building and liaising with the medical teams to provide additional support to more vulnerable patients.
Sarah says, “All the staff were fantastic to work with during a very new and worrying time. I am really grateful to the Royal Voluntary Service for the opportunity to be able to give something back to help the community during a really difficult time.”
Eileen is 80 years old and 11 years ago lost her husband of 50 years due to a heart condition. Eileen and her husband had talked about volunteering so Eileen decided to do something at Derriford hospital where her husband had been looked after.
Eileen started volunteering 1 day on the wards, shopping for the patients but realised she could offer more so volunteered for more posts.
Eileen says, “I did surveys, joined the nutritional committee as a representative for the patients, next came the PLACE audits, from there I went out with tea trolleys to say thankyou to the staff. I'm also a personal experience ambassador. As I had done 40 years as a catering manager I was seconded onto the catering committee tasting the new menus for the patients. I then joined the R.V.S book library going round the wards with books for the patients to borrow. I became a member of the patient council for the last 5 years and have just signed up for another 3 years. I'm also a member of the volunteering committee as a volunteer representative. But by far the best experience has been working in the accident and emergency department. I was there for 5 years before Covid. As things were at a standstill I helped at the vaccine centre in the hospital. When the call came to say we could go back to A&E there was no hesitation on my part. The department is so busy and volunteers play their part to help the team. It's so rewarding helping patients and new volunteers to find their way around. I have also been involved with raising money for the neonatal unit. I did a skydive when I was 75 and raised over 1000 pounds. We are getting a new A&E in the near future and I've told them I'll still be volunteering when I'm a 100! Just recently I was picked as a platinum champion volunteer, there were 3000 people and they picked 490 and I was one of them representing Derriford Hospital. I have to say I love this hospital, it's made me get up in the morning with a purpose to help whoever I can each day. I'm now volunteering 4 days a week with possibly a bit more to come!"
Rachele is a Parent Governor at her daughters school Mayflower Community Academy.
Rachele says “I started very small, because of language barriers (I am Italian and when I got to Plymouth 3 years ago, I couldn’t speak one word of English). Because I am a teacher, I love to work in the education area and when the school was looking for a parent governor, I was brave and put myself forward! Surprisingly I received the largest numbers of votes and have been in the role since January. It is a great way for me to learn and grow, and working side by side with the leadership team of the school is fantastic. My role at the moment is to help the school involve the community as much as possible in school activities.
Because I’m very passionate about art, (I hope one day to be able to study more at the Art University Plymouth, when my English will be better) I offered my support to run an after school art club, which I do every Monday evening with Miss Pilley (one lovely teacher at the school) for Year 4 pupils. We have had an exhibition already, and it was a great success because the pupils could share their art, learning and experiences with their parents and the rest of the school community. We also launched a newsletter @madeinmayflower, where we explain what we do in our art club”
I have also had the opportunity this year to help at Mount Wise Primary school with the Early Years Group giving my support where it is needed. It has been one of the best experiences I have had. Little children give you energy, and if you look at the world with their eyes you would be surprised by the magic you can see around you, even in the little things. Volunteering is fantastic. I try to do my best just to receive their smiles in return”
Matt is relatively new to volunteering, he volunteers for various reasons, and two of the activities he is involved with highlight some of them.
Matt says “My partner Nic and I started a business in Adelaide Street in 2019, and soon after opening, we got involved with Adelaide Street Angels, a community group that was also getting started at the time. We have regular involvement with the Angels, but I feel my main contribution to the group is in my role as a Clean Our Patch ambassador.
We’ve been doing monthly litter picks in Adelaide Street since 2019 (except during Covid-19 lockdown periods), and whilst we haven’t eliminated litter on ‘our’ patch entirely, our effort has helped the neighbourhood look and feel tidy.
I grew up in a time and place where public anti-littering campaigns were frequent, and in my family, not littering was a basic part of good citizenship. Being a Clean Our Patch volunteer is a way for me to extend that small act of good citizenship, and contribute to something that’s larger than just me and my own behaviour.
Picking up litter is perhaps one of the simplest ways for me to give my time to the community. In contrast, my role as a volunteer presenter at Omnium Radio is much more personal. I love music, so broadcasting once a week, sharing my favourite songs and new discoveries with an audience, however small, seems like a massive indulgence I feel lucky to have. I started my weekly show in December of 2020, and I’m certain that it has helped me maintain some sense of balance during the Covid-19 period”
Charlotte is a writer, performer and artist from Plymouth who has volunteered a lot for different charities and within different projects. Particularly working alongside other artists at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and Barbican Theatre Plymouth on productions.
Recently Charlotte has volunteered as a performer on a production called Green Space Dark Skies. The project, which is still taking place around the country, was created to help celebrate and protect nature.
Charlotte says “I loved the project as it brought everyone together to celebrate this beautiful environment which is often neglected. I am also currently volunteering as a young Co Designer with Effervescent on a campaign called Lonely Not Alone. Raising awareness of isolation. I work as part of a team with other young Designers to generate possible ways of reaching people and improving our campaign. Through the project, people are given the opportunity to have their voices heard by sharing their story if they feel comfortable in doing so.
I also currently work in a British Heart Foundation charity shop, where I work on the shop floor - greeting customers and on the till. I also work in retail preparing clothing and items to be put in the shop floor for sale. I wanted to volunteer within this shop as my dad experiences heart problems. I am so proud of the work everyone puts in at the British Heart Foundation. I am also thankful for the welcoming atmosphere and everyone's effort to help this charity.
My first voluntary experience was working in the cancer research shop. As my gran passed away from cancer at a young age she received a lot of support from Cancer Research and Mcmillan. I wanted to return my appreciation in the hopes we can save more lives”
Lynn volunteers for St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth and at the Covid-19 Mass Vaccination Centre at Home Park in Plymouth.
Lynn says “St Luke’s is close to my heart as my Nan spent the last 8 weeks of her life there. I visited her each day and bore witness to the outstanding care and treatment she received and I hope that by volunteering at their fund-raising events, other families can benefit in the same way my family did”.
For the last few years, Lynn has been part of the CheeziFit team, providing the warm-up for the amazing ladies who take part in the St Luke’s Midnight Walk (taking place on 22nd July this year). After starting their shift at 7pm, volunteers stay on to welcome back the walkers with a clap and a cheer and to present their medals before heading home at around 3:30am! Additionally Lynn has volunteered at St Luke's Tour de Moor and Men’s Day Out events, marshalling and handing out pasties. These events are always a huge success, raising vital funds for this amazing charity and Lynn is super proud to be part of the volunteering team.
Lynn also volunteers at the Mass Vaccination Centre at Home Park, taking on many different roles from welcoming people, booking them in and directing them to be vaccinated. Lynn says, “Covid-19 had such a devastating effect on so many people’s lives and I hope that by giving some of my free time I have assisted in a small way to helping the country get back to a new normal. I would recommend volunteering to anyone, I have been made to feel very welcome and made new friends along the way”.
Douglas started volunteering seven years ago, helping his wife Annemarie with local fundraisers for different local charities and groups. In 2016, he started (and still coordinates) a team of volunteers that welcome cruise ship passengers and international visitors arriving into Plymouth. This group started with 4 people, and now there are 20 giving their own time, to help make the City of Plymouth a more welcoming place.
From 2018 to 2022, Douglas and his wife volunteered with the Motor Neurone Disease Association, providing funding and support for families affected by MND. In 2020, he became a Volunteer Community Ambassador with Kidney Research UK (later joined by his wife in 2022).
Douglas says "Plymouth is full of amazing people giving their time, whether it be to support others, community help or maybe to simply benefit their own mental health and well being. Raising awareness and raising funds locally feels important to me, with many local people locally affected with some form of Kidney Disease. I also add my patient voice to kidney local groups."
Douglas and his wife joined the local #CleanOurPatch litter picking group, and they are now both Volunteer Ambassadors in Ham - working closely with local organisations such as local churches and local schools. During lockdown, they also joined Plympton Rotary Club, and are now part of the international #ServiceAboveSelf and #ServeToChangeLives Rotary movement.
Douglas adds: "In 2021 I was awarded a Nationally recognised Rotary Award #ChampionOfChange for helping others with health inequalities whilst living with my own long term condition. Three months later I was awarded the 'Steve Whiteway' Award from Devon Chambers of Commerce, both these prestigious awards I am really personally grateful for."
Holly volunteers with the Devon Army Cadets in Plymouth, part of a national youth organisation aimed at inspiring young people to achieve both physically and mentally whilst developing self-confidence, teamwork and leadership.
Cadets have the opportunity to undertake a variety of activities, which in turn enables them to progress within their cadet careers and achieve the next rank/level. Holly is training to be an instructor to aid more in their journey.
Holly says, “It's been the most amazing experience I've had since I joined and I'm so grateful I can inspire the children to achieve their goals and teach them skills. It also helps my mental health, due to not being able to work, this gives me a real drive and passion to achieve more for myself. We are always recruiting new adults and children to help the organisation grow.”
Annie retired in July 2020 in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Previously a teacher until 2010, and then a families worker at a Plymouth church, Annie wanted to do some volunteering in retirement and was delighted when the opportunity arose to volunteer at the vaccine centre at Home Park.
Annie says “I started at the end of January 2021 and am still there on a weekly basis. It’s been a total privilege volunteering alongside members of the NHS. in the massive drive to vaccinate members of the community. I have almost completed 100 shifts and have made new friends along the way. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community and I hope to be able to continue to do this in some form for many more years”
The Hoe Neighbourhood Forum
The Hoe Neighbourhood Forum was set up in 2017 to empower the Hoe community to have a louder voice in planning matters, to act as guardians of the Hoe's unique natural and historic built heritage for the benefit of all and to recognise that the Hoe is an urban village within the city of Plymouth.
One of their members Penny got in touch to tell us more: “Many people have put a great deal of time and effort into developing this sense of "neighbourliness". It was wonderful to see how people pulled together during the pandemic and helped their neighbours with shopping, dog-walking, befriending and general mutual support at such a difficult time. We will continue to build on and strengthen these ties to make the Hoe the best place possible for everyone. We have several hundred members and are continually growing”
Ali became involved with Plymouth Soup Run 8+ years ago. Plymouth Soup Run volunteers prepare food which is delivered to spots around Plymouth and shared with those who are homeless, sofa surfing, who don't have access to regular food preparation facilities, hostel users, or anyone else who can't afford to both keep a roof over their head and eat.
Plymouth Soup Run delivers food and care 365 days a year, whatever the weather (or pandemic situation).
Some nights Ali has been out on the run and has served 40+ clients and on other nights almost 100. Ali works with a team of about 7 who meet in Shekinah Mission where the donated and collected food is prepped, cooked and packed. They also take out clothing, sleeping bags, blankets, toiletries, sweets, and dog food if they have it. Other teams work out of different bases around the city and eachwork in slightly different ways.
Ali says "All of the teams helping out on the Soup Runs have great camaraderie and often meet up with regular 'clients' each time we're on the run to check how they're doing, if they need a listening ear or signposting to other services. We inform the 'Rough Sleeper' team if someone new appears and doesn't yet have any accommodation. The whole process is designed to help as much as possible to ensure those less fortunate than ourselves don't feel forgotten, abandoned, 'less than', and the evenings are often full of laughter, and always full of gratitude.....on both 'sides'."
"Many years ago I used to work in the local Jobcentre and spent many years issuing benefit giros to clients who had no fixed abode, it's nice now to also be able to help out in another way. I try to remember always that there is a very fine line between where my life is and where the lives of others are. I come home after every Soup Run event grateful for the reminder that I am lucky enough to have a roof over my head, food in the cupboards and family and friends to support me. Sometimes the Soup Run is the only 'family' some of our clients have."
Amber volunteers through her work, including helping at The Rock Pool Project with editing and photography, and Cinesisters SW with their first ever showcase doing live streaming and editing. She also volunteered to help out her mum by editing a video for her Nursing course.
Amber says “I think this is the best way I can help out and use my skills as a filmmaker for things/people I admire or believe in. I also house sit for my friend and look after their dog!”
Lynn’s volunteer journey started with her three youngest children’s autism diagnosis. Lynn began by volunteering with the Plymouth parent carer forum in 2008, joining the steering group and becoming a member of the National Network in 2010, where she was able to voice the concerns of parents/carers on a national level.
Lynn went on to volunteer with YoungMinds as a Parent Editor to work on the online MindEd modules. Previously intended for training resources for health professionals, Lynn worked with health professionals to develop the modules for parent/carers who had concerns over their children’s mental health as a source of information and advice.
In 2016 Lynn became a volunteer member of the NHS England Learning Disability and Autism advisory group. This year Lynn also began volunteering with the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health as a steering group member of the Infant, Child, and Young Person’s (ICYP) Engagement and involvement group and the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary as an Access and Engagement team member specialising in autism.
Lynn is a member of the Family Faculty at Exeter University to research, develop and deliver the Healthy Parent Carer project to assist parent/carers of special educational needs and disabled children with their own physical and mental wellbeing.
In 2017 Lynn joined the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and became a Poppy Wave volunteer in Plymouth to assist with the installation at the War memorial on Plymouth Hoe and to march with other volunteers on Remembrance Sunday.
In 2020 Lynn became a Mayflower Maker to assist with events leading up and during the Mayflower 400 commemorations.
Lynn attends aDAPt (Derriford Autism Partnership) as a volunteer and as an adult with a late diagnosis of autism, is able to assist as a patient participant and as a parent/carer within the Derriford Autism Service to assist with the roll out of autism training for health professionals.
Lynn also has a seat on the Plymouth Autism Board and is a member of the Devonport Timebank.
At the beginning of the Pandemic in March 2020 Brittany and her partner Pete noticed their neighbour had got a new Cockapoo puppy. After getting talking, they found out that their neighbour was recovering from bowel cancer and had a really rough time of it so offered to help.
Brittany says “Due to health limitations our neighbour wasn’t able to go too far from the house with his new dog Flossy. Peter and I had both been furloughed so offered to take Flossy for a walk and it was love at first sight! It has been 2 years now and we rarely miss a daily walk come rain or shine! The friendship we have built with Flossy and the countless amount of adventures we've had together is valuable beyond words”