This month our guest blogger is Jim Dodds, Mayor of Kirklees who hosted two end of year celebration events for volunteers last week.
This time of year usually provides us with the opportunity to take stock of the past year. This week I had the pleasure of attending a volunteer celebration event to say thank you to volunteers for the amazing contribution they have made in Kirklees over the past year. It is estimated that over 30 million hours are given a year in Kirklees: but it is not just the amount of hours given which is amazing. It is also the difference these hours make to the lives of people in Kirklees. Volunteering has meant:
- we have been able to offer the vital hand of friendship to many of the older generation, for whom it is more difficult to get out and about
- when some people have experienced trauma in their lives, there has been someone there to say “it’s okay you are not alone”
- that for people going through tough times we have been able to say, “Here’s some food, here’s some clothes, and let’s together help make life better”
- people fleeing war and persecution, who have been too close to the worst that the world has to offer, have been welcomed and helped to make a new life here
- hundreds of miles of paths are regularly cleared so that more of us can experience the stunning beauty of this place we call home
- children (of all ages!) have been able to take part in outdoor activities, sport and experience the true value of teamwork, physical exercise and all the benefits that this will bring to them throughout their lives
- people who have been the furthest from the job market have been able to find opportunities to learn and to develop skills in non-threatening and nurturing community environments, often cheered on by people who have been in the same position
And this really is where volunteering particularly comes into its own – more so than any other kind of help. It makes it possible to reach out to people experiencing something incredibly difficult, or personal, because it is something the volunteers themselves have survived. Whether it be bereavement, sexual violence or life limiting conditions, it means having someone to talk to who has walked that mile in shoes just like yours. Sometimes that can sometimes make all the difference. And what better way to show the difference volunteering makes than from the volunteers themselves.
I said that there are more than 30 million volunteer hours in Kirklees. And it’s true that we may never know the full extent of everything those hours achieve. But we do know that it is much to be thankful for.
So, on behalf of everyone in Kirklees: Thank You.
Keep up the great work you are doing, and may your work inspire more like you in 2017!