Your volunteering stories

For Volunteers’ Week 2021, we celebrate the stories of Leeds alumni who give their time to causes all over the globe.

Celebrating Leeds alumni volunteers

Explore the range of volunteering stories, and don’t forget to share your own.

Volunteers' week is a time to celebrate the contribution of volunteers everywhere. Across the world and right back here on campus, Leeds alumni support causes close to their hearts.

Be it dedicating time to creating a cleaner environment, providing care for those in need, or helping where it all began back at Leeds, so many in our community make a positive global impact. Discover their stories using the tabs below.

And if you are interested in volunteering to support students and graduates at Leeds, get in touch to find out how.

 

Gill Belchetz (English 2005; MA Writing for Performance and Publication 2008) at St George's Crypt, Leeds

The difference I make...

I work in the kitchen, clean, serve meals and talk to clients.

I got involved because...

Homelessness is a huge problem and any of us could find ourselves in this situation. St Georges helps people with a range of problems to restore balance and find positivity – to live independently again in society. Their work and contribution to those most vulnerable in our society and those who have simply fallen on hard times is amazing. I love being a small part of what they do.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it. Not only will you be helping people in need, but you will have great satisfaction from doing so.

Alumni can read more about St George's Crypt in our recent alumni feature with chaplain and alum, Rev Roger Quick.
More

Rosalind Ratana (International Law 2020) at Chapeltown Citizens Advice

The difference I make...

I assisted the caseworker with the welfare appeals and tribunals clinic.

I got involved because...

It helped me to get working experience in the UK and also helps out the community.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Go for it! Not only is it a great way to get practical experience but it can also help make you decide what your interests and passions are.

More

Neal Boothman (Acute Healthcare 2013) at Yorkshire Ambulance Service

The difference I make...

I am a community first responder.

I got involved because...

I wanted to use my clinical skills for my local community.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Definitely do it.

More

John Kent (Data Processing 1983) at Hawk Conservancy Trust

The difference I make...

I volunteer as an assistant bird handler and in photo library management.

I got involved because...

I've been visiting for years and wanted to get more deeply involved in its conservation activities.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Remember that you may have to start on the ground floor and that you must earn trust and respect on the basis of your commitment and actions rather than historical work experience.

More

Meera Davidson (MSc Material Science and Engineering 2020) at HOMED

The difference I make...

I helped at the Seacole Hostel, so would cook a meal for 16-24 year olds, teaching residents how to prepare meals. As a coordinator, I led volunteers, organised transport, bought ingredients and created meal plans, demonstrating my teamwork, communication and organisational skills.

I got involved because...

I wanted to pass on my cooking skills to young people by providing encouragement so that when they grow up, they have the capability to do it independently. I wanted to improve my leadership, organisation and communication skills.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it!!! It’s a great opportunity to build up your confidence as a person and good for your wellbeing helping others. You become mature and see how everyone lives differently.

More

Geraldine Matthews (French 1967) at Bristol Drugs Project

The difference I make...

Over the years I have helped in many different areas. I have assisted in the needle exchange, supported service users in hostels and on the streets, helped with administration, assessments, networking and on the telephone helpline.

The most important and, for me, the most rewarding task is to come alongside our service users, to be available to listen to their concerns and to enable them to feel cared about and valued.

I got involved because...

Having trained as a teacher, my desire has always been to support young people as much as possible, not just academically, along their life's journey. I became increasingly aware that drug use for some children was preventing this. I knew nothing about drugs so I decided to find out and to try to understand the pros and cons of drug use.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Just do it! It is so rewarding. The people you meet are amazing and your whole outlook can change. You learn so much and so many new skills.

More

June Gaynor (French and Management Studies 1984) at Milton Keynes Parks Trust

The difference I make...

I have several roles including Volunteer Park Ranger (keeping my local woodland tidy and reporting any issues), Outdoor Learning Volunteer (helping with school and other group educational activities in the parks) and Bio-Diversity Volunteer (carrying out wildlife surveys, creating and maintaining habitats for wildlife).

I got involved because...

I took early retirement and wanted to do something which would both help my community and help me to keep fit spending time in the outdoors. Having spent my life working in Information Technology, I wanted to do something different!

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Volunteering is extremely rewarding in terms of giving something back to the community and beneficial to your own personal well-being and mental health by having purpose, especially for those who are retired. It's also a great way of meeting new, like-minded people.

More

Amos Schonfield (International Relations 2014) at Our Second Home

The difference I make...

I am Founder & Director.

I got involved because...

I founded Our Second Home in order to empower young refugees and migrants to flourish in the place they call home. I wanted to take the skills I have gained and offer them to people who could benefit from the same experiences.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Volunteering is the most uplifting thing I do. I get to give my time to causes and issues I care about, build and take part in strong and resilient communities, and have fun doing it.

More

Seonaid McPhail (Pharmacology 1981) at The Scout Association at Girlguiding

The difference I make...

Currently I am leader at a guide and a ranger unit, plus I am County International Adviser.

I got involved because...

I was a guide and both my daughters have been involved. My youngest daughter's unit needed more volunteers, so I joined too.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Absolutely go for it, I have had a huge amount of fun and it is so worthwhile.

More

Robert Bennett (Economics 1991; MA Industrial and Labour Studies) at Brighter Futures Yorkshire

The difference I make...

I am a volunteer director with responsibility for the day to day development, management, coordination and delivery of all services offered by Brighter Futures. This includes the facilitation of three weekly peer support groups, an online creativity workshop, the Selby District Mental Health Forum and a forthcoming Youth project.

I got involved because...

I established Brighter Futures in 2009 following the collapse of my own mental health in 2006 and my experiences within the mental health system and growing appreciation of the extremely limited support services available within the community for people living with mental health issues.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

With volunteering you embark on an incredible journey and can play a part in helping to transform peoples’ lives. It’s not always easy but it can provide opportunities to work in a hugely creative way (needs must when project funding is always limited!)

You meet and work with incredible people who, despite facing daily challenges that in our organisation can be a real threat to their lives show you true humanity.

Developing and volunteering within Brighter Futures has transformed my life and hopefully continues to support the transformation of the lives of those we work with.

More

Paula Marshall (Social Policy and Administration 1989) at The Girls Network

The difference I make...

I mentor school age girls.

I got involved because...

To give something back having come from a background where I would have really valued a mentor support.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Stop finding excuses not to. The Girls Network only needs an hour a month on top of training.

More

Richard Spencer (Electrical and Electronic Engineering 1974) at Mrs Utterson’s Almshouses & Christian Aid

The difference I make...

I am Chair and Clerk for the Trustees of Mrs Utterson’s Almshouses and am also managing the fabric. I am currently being sponsored for 300,000 steps this May for Christian Aid.

I got involved because...

The Vicar asked me to be the Clerk for the Almshouses! I believe in the work that we as Trustees do as we provide good quality but affordable accommodation to six people on low incomes. I chose to volunteer for Christian Aid because of the work they do enabling people in developing countries to live better, healthier lives.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Decide what you believe in most and go for it.

More

Elizabeth Godber (MA Writing for Performance and Publication 2017) at Dementia Friendly East Riding

The difference I make...

I am a trustee, and I also work in arts outreach - taking shows into schools to teach young people about dementia awareness.

I got involved because...

I wanted to gain a greater understanding of the impact of dementia on families, and help in anyway I could.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

It's a great way to be involved in the wider community, to understand and learn from others, and to broaden your own horizons.

More

James Child (Civil and Structural Engineering 2004) at The Scout Association

The difference I make...

I am the Assistant District Commissioner (Beavers) and Beaver Scout Leader (in Romsey, Hampshire).

I got involved because...

I was a youth member from age six, followed right through to adulthood and wanted to give young people the opportunities I've had over the years.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it, it's the most rewarding experience you can have and a complete change from the daily routine.

More

Sophia Komba (MA Gender Studies 2007) at Centre Against Gender Based Violence

The difference I make...

I work with marginalized women groups, supporting with economic empowerment, giving them skills on how they can improve economically and become independent.

I got involved because...

They have programmes on women empowerment and I found many women suffer from gender based violence because they have no purchasing power and no means by which to stand alone. I hate to see women living in poverty and being subjected to domestic violence because of their economic situation.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

If you love others and have capacity to help just do it by any means without considering payment. After that you will feel special in that particular community.

More

Mike Major (Law 1967) at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

The difference I make...

I'm Chairman of the Lifeboat Management Group at Whitby, a Heritage Education Volunteer, an Education Volunteer, Community Presenter and member of the Friends of Whitby Lifeboat (fundraising).

I got involved because...

I was born and brought up in Whitby and have been a supporter all my life.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it. It's a great way to keep active, help the community, do some good, stay involved and get to know lots of people.

More

Anna Duenbier (MA Professional Language and Intercultural Studies 2014) at China Exchange

The difference I make...

In the last year, Chinatowns across the globe have been particularly hard hit. I've researched the changing nature of London's Chinatown and the way it has been portrayed in the media to underpin the valuable Chinatown recovery work China Exchange is doing with the community and local businesses.

I got involved because...

I’m passionate about building a better understanding of other cultures and the China Exchange with its focus on opportunities to understand China, Chinese culture and Chinatown seemed like the perfect match.

My advice to anyone considering starting out volunteering…

Do it! Volunteer for something you want to discover more about and you won't regret it. It’s a brilliant way to learn more about other cultures and causes and to make great friends along the way.

More

Mark Hey (Mechanical Engineering 1980) at his local primary school

The difference I make...

I help year one children with reading and maths.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help young people in my community to get a good start in education.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Contact your local primary school. Helping the children is really enjoyable and helps them a lot. I had the benefit of a free university education and it’s good to be able to contribute and help others.

More

Martine Somerville (Law 1981) at SASH (Safe and Sound Homes)

The difference I make...

We provide 'supported lodgings' for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASCs) – single male refugees from Ethiopia/Eritrea aged 16-20.

I got involved because...

My wife and I wanted to respond in a practical way to the crisis of refugees coming across the Mediterranean from Africa. Our children had left home and we had spare rooms in our house.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

You're likely to get as much, if not more, out of it as what you put in, so go for it!

More

Annie Emmins (Music and Religious Studies 1996) at The Besom in Esher / The Besom Network

The difference I make...

I've been here for 10 years. I founded The Besom in Esher and am Lead Coordinator and Trustee. I am also a Trustee and part of the Support Team for the national Besom Network.

I got involved because...

I was troubled by the wide gap between those who have much and those who have little in our society and so, stirred with compassion by the various types of poverty and isolation around me, I got involved with The Besom in London when I first went on maternity leave. This grew, many years later, into pioneering a Besom in Surrey where I lived as I wanted to help others also express their Christian faith by generously giving their resources (time, money, skills and furniture/household items) to those most deeply in need in their communities.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

It's totally worth it!

More

Jeanie Copland (Education 1976) at VSO; Citizens Advice; Bath Festivals; Bath Georgian House

The difference I make...

I worked in India as VSO volunteer for two years, then in their London office twice monthly as a Selector. For CAB I volunteered as an Advisor, and at Georgian House I volunteered as a Guide to visitors and as a steward at the Bath Festivals, as required.

I got involved because...

I had travelled as a backpacker worldwide and wanted to spend time involved in working/living in a developing country. VSO is a major provider of development aid, and places volunteers in country.

My advice to anyone considering starting out volunteering…

Get involved now, share your skills, empower others.

More

Georgina Gray (Geography 2020) at Nene Park Trust

The difference I make...

Litter picking once a week.

I got involved because...

It’s a lovely park that I’ve enjoyed visiting since I was young. It’s also an important place for conservation and education in the community.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it! Any time you can spare makes such a difference. It feels good to do your bit for the community.

More

Andrew Wedgner (Civil Engineering 1988) at OXFAM

The difference I make...

I volunteer as a water and sanitation engineer.

I got involved because...

I wanted to contribute to helping others through the use of my skills and experience.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

If the right opportunity comes up to make use of your skills to help people you should take it. I found the experience very rewarding.

More

Simon Brooks (English Literature 1983) at Shared Lives

The difference I make...

I volunteer as Community Support Worker.

I got involved because...

It’s worthwhile and rewarding work supported by a good professional care agency in Wigan and Leigh.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Try it and see if it suits you ....you might surprise yourself and even have fun.

More

Charlotte Ndiribe (Biodiversity and Conservation 2009) at The Environment Council

The difference I make...

I helped with the administrative tasks of this organization.

I got involved because...

I am environmentally-inclined.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it!

More

Taryn Beasley (Food Science and Nutrition 2016) at Action and Nightline

The difference I make...

At Action I’m a project coordinator for actionbound – a project working with young carers and general volunteer for other projects. At Nightline I’m an IT coordinator and general phone and IM volunteer.

I got involved because...

Both groups allowed me to give back to both the local student community and the local community of Leeds.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it! You meet so many great likeminded people and it's the opportunity to get away from the university bubble and make a difference to the communities around you!

More

Derek Law (Computational Science (1980) at Willingham Parish Council

The difference I make...

I’ve been the chair of the parish council for eight years.

I got involved because...

I wanted to contribute to the village community.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

It's great for meeting people.

More

Jeremy Mackrell (Law 1960) at Yorkshire Housing Association; Craven Trust; Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust; Aire Wharfe Community Housing Trust; Bradford Diocesan Church Buildings Fund; Keighley & District Agricultural Show Society; Oxenhope Parish Council; Oxenhope Millennium Green Trust; Oxenhope Old Burial Grounds Trust; Oxenhope Nursing Association; and others.

The difference I make...

I was a member of the committee of all these organisations, mainly as Chairman, but also as Clerk/Secretary or board member.

I got involved because...

I wanted to use the skills and knowledge I gained in the law to the benefit of the community.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it!

More

Karen Quinton (English 1981) at Tandridge Learning Trust and The Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture

The difference I make...

TLT is a multi-academy trust of five schools. I was the driving force behind setting it up and have seen it through its first four years of life as Chair of the board of trustees.

TIAH is a new professional body being created to provide learning, career development and a reliable source of advice for anyone working in these sectors. I am a trustee.

I got involved because...

I have a professional interest in adult learning, but inherited teaching from my dad who was a primary teacher. Being a school governor gave me a reason to connect to school. It was also a hugely complex area where I knew very little, so the opportunities for my own learning were huge.

My advice to anyone considering starting out volunteering…

People volunteer in many different ways and for many different reasons. Regardless of their motivations, they make a difference to people's lives, and making that difference is what matters.

My input may be my time and my skills, but in creating and driving strategy in this organisation we have improved one school so that it now provides a good education where previously it had failed hundreds of children. They’ll never know, but I am immensely proud. I have learned to respect other perspectives than my own and gained so much knowledge and understanding. Why would you not?!

More

Ronnie Grandage (Mechanical Engineering 1956) at Bible Society, Mission Assist

The difference I make...

I'm secretary of the local fundraising group for Bib Soc and I'm a typist and illustrator for Mission Assist. I help organise fundraising events for Bib Soc, including an annual sponsored walk that has raised more than £40,000 over the years. For Mission Assist, I type sections of the Bible in foreign languages. These are used to help in revising translations, reprinting Bibles and for publishing scriptures on line. I also draw illustrations for books that are used in literacy projects.

I got involved because...

I'm interested in their work. Also when I retired from engineering I wanted to find something useful I could do from home. That's when I joined Mission Assist.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it! With luck you'll make new friends. There are plenty of organisations that could do with more help, and something to suit all tastes. But especially there are people with all kinds of serious needs, and you could be helping them!

More

Aileen Larsen (Politics and Sociology 1990) at Harewood House

The difference I make...

I was a room steward talking to visitors about the history and the art.

I got involved because...

I was a youth worker and was keen to encourage the young people I worked to take up some volunteering.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Do it. I am one of several paid members of staff who started off as a volunteer....and it’s great fun and a valuable experience.

More

Mandy Whitehouse (Spanish and Management Studies 1982) at Eggcup, East meets West, Judges Lodgings, Lancashire Volunteer partnership (COVID Vaccine Marshall), Friends of Chernobyl’s Children, Lancaster Churches Together

The difference I make...

At egg cup, I deliver surplus food; at East meets West, I support asylum seeker and refugee women; I am a COVID vaccine marshal; at FOCC I facilitate recuperative visits for children from Belarus; I am secretary of Lancaster Churches Together; I am Room Steward Trustee; and Friend of Judges Lodgings.

I got involved because...

I wanted to give something back to my community.

My advice to anyone considering starting out volunteering…

It's fun, you get to meet like-minded people and it gives you a great deal of satisfaction.

More

Phil Cross (Data Processing 1980) at Penn Street Village Hall

The difference I make...

I've volunteered here for 18 years. I chair a group of volunteers who help the hall provide services for charities, exercise classes (some for disadvantaged people), and children’s’ activities.

I got involved because...

My neighbour asked me if I'd like to get involved just after we moved in and that was that!

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Pick your cause carefully. It's extremely hard to disengage so you really need to make sure you believe in the cause, but the rewards outweigh the effort!

More

Joanne Baker (French and German 1990) at British Trust for Ornithology

The difference I make...

I volunteer at wetland bird survey.

I got involved because...

I am interested in bird watching.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It's a great experience.

More

Robert Burgess (History 1965) at Save the Family

The difference I make...

I am a Trustee and serve on main board and the corporate sub-committee. I have also completed 4 years as Chairman of Cheshire Local History Association and 18 years as Chairman of Hargrave & Huxley History Group. I apply my professional experience and knowledge to help run these organisations. I am also a church warden and litter picker.

I got involved because...

It keeps me active in a sociable environment, and achieves results for everyone's benefit. And that's good for my health and temper too! I started litter picking because I objected to walking my dog through litter. Others followed my example and not only was litter a thing of the past, but the associated vandalism stopped too.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Stop thinking, and get in there.

More

Chris Haines (Chemical Engineering 1971) at Chaigeley School

The difference I make...

I am a Governor and Trustee.

I got involved because...

Chaigeley is an independent school for SEMH pupils and needed new governors. I felt I'd reached a level of life experience that was useful.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Do it. You'll experience new things and situations.

More

Jayne Spencer (Economics 1980) at the Sir Anthony Wharton Rugby Union Charitable Trust

The difference I make...

I've volunteered here for 8 years. I am a trustee which means reviewing, analysing and approving grant applications plus other initiatives and fundraising.

I got involved because...

It’s good to put something back and encourage youth.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Just Do It.

More

Patricia Wootton (Education 1973) at Association of Past Students I M Marsh College of Physical Education (APS IMM); Penwortham Town Council for residents; St Mary's Church Penwortham; Royal Observer Corps (ROC) Association; Gathered Voices Choir; Former Pupils of Penwortham Girls' Grammar School; Maghull and District Dog Training Society; and ME Support group

The difference I make...

I've been volunteering for 56 years at APS IMM, and there’s something to do every week. I pass on information, receiving annual news, and give info about annual reunions.

Each month as a committee member I have a meeting for ROCAssn. At church I support activities four times a year. I help the council at Annual Gala monitoring the entrance, being the safety officer at firework display, picking up litter, gardening, shopping and painting fences, and also at my old school three times a year.

I also help my friends/neighbours every day.

I got involved because...

Most things I was volunteered by other people having shown that I was capable of taking on responsibility – I was prefect then Head Girl.

7yrs before I went to Leeds, my family has for at least three generations done all it can for the well-being of our village. Having suffered from ME it was politic to be involved in running the group, help others and obtain information and support for me.

Dog club was good for my training of my dog as well as socially. Help was always needed.

I am a social being and support my neighbourhood therefore without thinking I help when people ask. I’m careful not to intrude but let people know I'm willing.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Just do it. The more people involved, the more should be possible and possibly there may be a lighter load for other volunteers. Sometimes if people learn what is involved in society they become more responsible and amenable lightening the load for others. Some activities can be fun and there is always the possibility of meeting new people.

More

Shairb Mohammed (Social Policy & Islam 2019) at Tigers ABC

The difference I make...

I coach boxing to children and adults three times per week.

I got involved because...

I wanted to give back to the sport after my eye got injured

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it, it’s a great use of free time and is very rewarding.

More

Michael Mallinson (Special Studies Economics 1969) at Axial Spondyloarthritis International Federation

The difference I make...

I served as Secretary from 2011-2016 and since then I sit on the Operations, Delay to Diagnosis, World AS Day and Membership sub-committees, to help direct the organization and its projects.

I got involved because...

I was diagnosed with axial spondyloarthritis (previously called ankylosing spondylitis) after a ten-year delay from onset of symptoms.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Volunteering in a specific disease patient organization is a therapy in itself. Beyond this, volunteering allows you to use all your skills and develop new ones.

More

Paul Danon (English 1976) at Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

The difference I make...

I help through chaplaincy.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It’s very rewarding.

More

Barney Durrant (Classical Civilisations1993) at Brightside

The difference I make...

I am a mentor for young adults in the sixth form who are thinking about going into further education. Via online messaging, I mentor a number of students over a project of around two months to help them decide what and where to study and answer any questions about work life. Students are matched to people in the careers or in similar sectors to those they are interested in pursuing when they are older.

I got involved because...

I am interested in helping kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Go for it – it is very rewarding and you can learn from the people you help so it is not a one way process.

More

Jayne Oliver (Mathematics 1977) at Noah’s Star

The difference I make...

I work with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Birmingham Women’s hospital. Pre-pandemic my role was working with the parents and siblings of babies actually in the unit. Since the pandemic I have been mentoring siblings online to try and help them cope with mental health issues created by Covid. I am now training to work with providing support to carers.

I got involved because...

After retirement from teaching I wanted to have the opportunity to support in a different vocation.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it – it is so rewarding.

More

David Chappell (Geography 1979) at Take Heart

The difference I make...

I am Chair and Treasurer.

I got involved because...

Of my own experience of heart attack.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Just do it – it’s fun and rewarding.

More

Saleena Rani (English Literature 2018) at Bradford For Everyone led by Bradford Council

The difference I make...

I wanted to act as a community ambassador, promoting the campaign and its shared values, which aims to promote respect for all citizens and more cohesion between different ethnic and faith groups. There are many opportunities to get involved, including observations training, canvassing, and sitting on funding panels. Recently I have even taken part in a professional photoshoot for their publicity campaign!

I got involved because...

I wanted to develop my communication skills and improve my self-confidence.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

Do it, even if you are nervous or scared, because it will help you get to know new people, develop your skills, and get involved in exciting projects.

More

Marianne Dale (Pharmacology 2006) at Engage Befriending (Mustard Tree Foundation)

The difference I make...

I make befriending visits/calls with isolated people.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help people in my community.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It's wonderful to help others, I get just as much out of it as the people I support.

More

Robert Peacock (MBA Health & Social Care 1993) at Raincliffe Woods Community Enterprise CIC, Healthwatch North Yorkshire, Ayton & Snainton Patient Participation Group, Basics Plus at Betton Farm

The difference I make...

At RWCE CIC, I am a director and I network with other organisations and strategic partners – along with regular warden work and volunteering. At Healthwatch I am also a director, focussing on networking across health and social care. At the PPG I represent our local community at the GP practice and run wellbeing events. Basics Plus I am a director, and I volunteer with maintenance and supervision.

I got involved because...

Of enjoyment of the outdoors and nature. Promoting its benefits for health and wellbeing which links to my involvement around health and social care in the other organisations I am involved with.

My advice to anyone thinking about starting out volunteering...

It provides a great opportunity to give back to your communities and to challenge the bureaucracy and delays that the voluntary sector faces.

More

Michael Smith (Geography and History 1972) at Brendoncare Knightwood

The difference I make...

I am a voluntary catering assistant. I change the water jugs and tumblers in the residents' rooms in the morning, and then I go round the rooms with a hot drinks and biscuits trolley. Some of the residents like a hot drink when I change their water as well! And sometimes they like a short chat.

I got involved because...

My mother spent the last year of her life there and I wanted to give something back; the care she received there was excellent.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it. Dip your toe in the water, and if you like it spend some more time on it. I've found my morning duties very enjoyable and I was surprised at how much I grew to like the residents and care about them; now I miss it a lot, and I'm hoping that soon we volunteers at Knightwood will be back in harness.

More

Anthony Harker (Chemistry 1974) at Letcombe Brook Project

The difference I make...

I am Chair of the LBP Charity.

I got involved because...

I am a fan of our environment.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

You get out more than you put in.

More

Anne Elliott (Law 1973) at Samaritans

The difference I make...

I am a volunteer listener.

I got involved because...

I was impressed by concept of positive impact on mental wellbeing.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Do it – it’s very rewarding.

More

Tanya Walsh (Hydrogeology 2012) at Girlguiding UK

The difference I make...

I am assistant unit leader.

I got involved because...

I wanted to give girls the experience I had as a member of Girlguiding when I was younger.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Go for it! It’s a wonderful way to meet new people and give back to the community. I find it so rewarding to see young girls grow through their time with our unit.

More

Andy Craig (English Literature 2006) at The Huracan Foundation

The difference I make...

I helped with the initial build – and then updates for – their website

I got involved because...

Education and football are two things very close to my heart, so after they contacted the company I work for asking for some assistance, it felt like a brilliant fit.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

It's a brilliant way of learning new skills – or developing old ones – as well as meeting new people and gaining insight into areas of life you may otherwise not be exposed to.

More

Karen Stanton (German 1984) at Trussell Trust

The difference I make...

I collect donated food.

I got involved because...

I've always felt strongly that people need the basics, and I wanted to do my little bit to ensure local people could put food on the table for themselves and their families.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Just go for it! Many charities need a commitment of time, on a given day every week, but helping with Trussell Trust foodbank collections works for me because it's ad hoc and I volunteer when I can.

More

Mark Wrigley (Physics 1975) at the Institute of Physics and Elektric Works

The difference I make...

I do outreach and engagement. At Elektric Works, I evangelise physics by inspiring 'makers'.

I got involved because...

I wanted to promote social mobility through physics, and the road to physics is often through creative hobbies.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Do it!

More

Ellen Wang (Executive MBA 2020) at UK Chinese Women Connect

The difference I make...

I'm Head of Public Relations and Communications.

I got involved because...

UKCWC was set up as a non-profit charity, and their mission really resonated with me. Therefore I decided to volunteer to support UKCWC, bringing Chinese women together within the UK community and to address/support cultural challenges, racial inequality, isolation, abuse and other challenges that may be unique to UKCWC members.

Through collaborations and regular events, UKCWC aims to empower its members and to create positive social impact. All of which, I am very passionate about, therefore I hope through my work within UKCWC, I can play a small part in their big success.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Robert L Stevenson once said: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Volunteering is all about giving back to the community that we are part of, it brings people together and together we can change the world!

More

Maureen Darnbrough (History 2008) at Maecare, Leeds

The difference I make...

I joined Maecare many years ago, an organisation to help older people in the community.

I got involved because...

After a few years I joined the committee and helped with organising some of the outings etc. I was asked to take on the supervising of income and expenditure and became Treasurer. As the organisation grew, we were able to pay someone to work part-time in this position.

More

Bob Mansfield (Sociology 1974) at National Trust and Perennial

The difference I make...

I am a garden volunteer.

I got involved because...

Of an enjoyment of horticulture and wanting a meaningful activity after retirement.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Give something back.

More

Elaine Mawbey (Geological Science 2005; MSc Geochemistry 2006) at Action Tutoring

The difference I make...

I tutor primary maths.

I got involved because...

I wanted to help disadvantaged children have a chance to improve their maths and chances in education.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Do it! We need volunteers, especially in education now more than ever.

More

Paul Le Blond (MSc Transportation Engineering 1972) at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport

The difference I make...

I am on the Board and four committees.

I got involved because...

I wanted to put knowledge back into the industry and to further my career.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Joining a professional institute enables you to learn about the wider context of your profession and to influence its future.

More

Louise Groves (Environmental Science 1997) at Alexandra Primary School

The difference I make...

I'm Chair of Governors for a two form entry primary school.

I got involved because...

I have worked in education, so when my children started to attend the school, I wanted to volunteer my time to support the school with their strategic planning.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Becoming a school governor is really rewarding, and is a great way to get involved in a local community.

More

Bruce Carlin (Geography & Geology) at Community of the Resurrection

The difference I make...

For 8 years I’ve prepared their publications, type set and designed books, CDs etc.

I got involved because...

I have known them since I was student at Leeds living in their Hostel. Since retiring I have volunteered with them

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering...

Do it, it is rewarding and you learn new skills.

More

Joo Bee Yeo (Accounting & Finance 1996) at Project5 and Change Grow Life

The difference I make...

At Project5 I provide coaching to NHS, and at Change Grow Life, to minorities in North Wales.

I got involved because...

This is one of the best way to give back, to help NHS workers to find their balance, their strength, their purposes and energy so that they can continue to serve UK. And at Change Grow Life I want to be able to serve the local minorities.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Be clear on your objectives, do what you love doing, and want to give back.

More

Mary Ghali (Sociology 1964) at Citizens Advice

The difference I make...

I am a generalist advisor.

I got involved because...

I wanted something interesting and worthwhile after I retired.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Do contact your local Citizens Advice since new volunteers are always needed. It is incredibly valuable to clients and satisfying, if often demanding, to the advisers. One warning: there's a lot of training and it's not at all easy to start with, or ever! But it’s a very worthwhile challenge.

More

Joe Walsh (Social Work 2016) at Faith in Operation

The difference I make...

I promote altruistic kidney donation – which is giving a kidney to a stranger.

I got involved because...

I'm passionate about organ donation, and people sharing generously.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Giving is good for the soul.

More

Margaret Backhouse (Law 2002) at Guide Dogs

The difference I make...

I am responsible for writing press releases and all local (West, North and South Yorkshire) press and broadcast publicity.

I got involved because...

I love dogs but also wanted to work with people. Guide Dogs offers the best of both worlds. The dogs fulfil the aah factor and the visually impaired people that I have met have been so inspiring.

The charity is very appreciative of any help that is given and I have met such a wonderful bunch of people whilst doing this. I have learned a lot about visual impairment and have made many friends who constantly amaze me with their capacity to live the fullest possible life despite having little or no sight.

I can truly say that I probably get more out of volunteering than Guide Dogs gets out of me.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Just do it. Volunteering will open up whole new horizons, and provide you with skill sets you never knew you had. You will make new friends and have fun along the way if you pick your charity well and make it something that you are interested in. It may even lead you to a career change.

More

Paul Curtis (Geological Sciences 1996) at The Boys' Brigade

The difference I make...

I’m captain of 26th Leeds (Swinnow) Company

I got involved because...

I'd been in the BB myself as a boy and started taking my son along when he was five. I stayed with him because he has Asperger Syndrome and could be a handful. Over time I became more and more involved and I now run the company. The BB was a huge part of my childhood and it a means a lot to be able to give something back and be a positive influence in boys' lives.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Take a leap and get involved. You'll be surprised how much you get out of it. Bringing any form of positivity to people's lives brings positivity to your own.

More

Timothy Hayes (General Arts 1969) at Volunteer Missionary Movement

The difference I make...

I was teaching English, history, and scripture.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

It's more fun than a mainstream job broadly speaking because you do it chiefly for God, and to help others. But it doesn't pay so well, obviously!

More

Rachel Arundel (Broadcasting Studies 2004) at Leeds Student Community Action; Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO); and Terrence Higgins Trust

The difference I make...

At Leeds Student Community Action I volunteered on a wide range of projects mainly with children from the local community in Leeds while I was a student. The main project I was involved in was Outdoor Mix, where we took groups of disadvantaged local children and student volunteers to the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District to do outdoor activities.

At VSO, I participated in the Youth for Development programme and spent 15 months working in the paediatric programme at an HIV clinic in South Africa. I helped to develop the psycho-social programme there, including setting up a support group for adolescents living with HIV.

I volunteered with the Terrence Higgins Trust on two different projects in Leeds. Initially, I facilitated well-being training for adults living with HIV in Yorkshire. Later I volunteered on a project training and supporting young people who were sex and relationships peer educators.

I got involved because...

With Leeds Student Community Action, I had just arrived back from volunteering as an English teacher in Nepal when I started university. I wanted to do more voluntary work and it seemed like an obvious choice. Joining Leeds Student Community Action also helped me meet more people at uni, and I got involved in activities that I wouldn't otherwise have done. I really enjoyed being involved in projects with people from the local community and escaping from Leeds to the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District with groups of kids for the weekend.

With VSO, I wanted another opportunity to volunteer overseas and this offered a great experience to work in international development.

At the Terrence Higgins Trust, I wanted to be able to use some of the knowledge I had gained from working at an HIV clinic in South Africa when I returned to the UK, so I looked for an opportunity to volunteer with an HIV charity in Leeds.

My advice to anyone starting out volunteering…

Volunteering is brilliant. It provides opportunities for you to do things you otherwise wouldn't, and you can meet new people and make friends too. Volunteering also enabled me to gain skills and experience that helped me to find work and ultimately led to a career in Children's Social Care, though that wasn't why I started volunteering in the first place.

More