7 October 2013 | Volunteering blogs | Back to Blog

A little bit of appreciation goes a long way!

From guardian Ian Bell:

The great thing about charity work is that we get to do what we want, without the strictures and structures laid on us by a working environment. What I hadn’t expected when starting charity work with Positive East, was the emphasis they put on appreciation of their volunteers and the consequences this would have on my time with them.

Positive East is a charity that looks after people living with HIV, whether they are infected or affected by the virus. The centre offers a space where people can get advice, support, a gym work-out, a meal, use the computers, meet like-minded people, join groups and get tested. Volunteers are used in every area. The reception for example is staffed entirely by volunteers, though they support all of the various departments in one way or another.

But it is the support of the volunteers that has such an important place in the organisation in big ways and small. Staff will quite effortlessly go to volunteers and simply say ‘Thank you for being here today’. One of the managers makes a point of bringing down a plate of buttered toast to the volunteers on reception for a mid-morning snack. And the managers of the various departments make sure they check in with volunteers at least once a day to see how they are doing.
In the second week of working with them, I was surprised one morning when I was told I had won two tickets to see ‘A chorus Line. It turned out that Positive East are continuously writing to theatres and companies asked for gifts that can be passed onto volunteers, which are distributed through a lottery. Eventually everybody wins as the names in the hat dwindle – one volunteer recently won a huge box of Lush products, which kept the reception scented, till he picked them up at the end of the day.
The free meal is another small sign of appreciation as well as the regular volunteer forums that are hosted, so that the volunteers have a voice in the organisation too. And planning is going on at the moment for the annual volunteer party towards the end of the year.

At times I feel that I am getting more out of volunteering than I am putting in. Gratitude is an amazing gift to receive and so easy to give.

I was recently talking to Mike, the maintenance guy who keeps the corridors, lifts and rubbish shoot as well as the surrounding area at Channel House clean. It is a tough and ungrateful job, as many people take him and his colleagues for granted – evident when we see people throwing their garbage out of their windows’ as they know that somebody will pick it up. And yet, he never gives up. In fact, he truly cares about his job and the people he comes in contact with, receiving little appreciation for what he does along the way. Sometimes even the opposite when people let their fears out on him. And yet, he knows he’s making a difference in peoples lives, which is why he does it.

I was wondering one day, how one could show him appreciation in a way that would make a difference. Stopping for a chat on the way out, a smile and a thank you are a given. But then I went on-line and found that Tower Hamlets have an on-line site where you can either leave a complaint or a compliment about the services on the estate you live on and decided that that could be a way to make a difference, maybe even when it came to his annual appraisal. It only took a couple of minutes and was easy to do. Felt good too!

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