Spotlight on: Tom – what it’s like to volunteer for Samaritans

December 18, 2020

Writer for The Economist by day and volunteer with Samaritans by night, east Londoner, Tom, has been a Dot Dot Dot guardian for three years. Writing from his 2-bed flat, Tom describes the reality of his eye-opening role as a listening volunteer, and how being part of an army of like-minded people looking to make a positive difference is an extremely rewarding venture.

It’s 10.30pm on a Monday and I’m one of hundreds of Samaritans volunteers on duty tonight. I cycle from Poplar along the Thames path and under the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to my local branch in Lewisham. The river is peaceful and the path quiet. It’ll be silent when I return just after 3.

Becoming a listening volunteer begins with an information evening and a short selection process. Training normally involves several sessions which mix theory and role-play. These are usually in person but have been virtual during the pandemic. New volunteers are then assigned a mentor and you work together to develop your practice until you’re ready to take calls independently. However, you’re never “flying solo” – there’s always at least two on duty in a branch at any one time plus a leader on call. Training is stimulating and eye-opening. I was part of collaborative and close-knit group and many of us have stayed in contact. “This is not work experience” we are told early on. And it’s a really important point. Volunteers are discouraged from seeing training at Samaritans as just a stepping stone to a career in counselling. To train as a listening volunteer is to share the mission of the organisation and commit to regular duties in the long-term.

Contrary to perception, and despite being founded by a vicar, Samaritans is not a Christian organisation. The Rev Dr Chad Varah described its beginnings as “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone.” The Daily Mirror called Chad the “telephone good Samaritan” and the name stuck. Now, over 20,000 volunteers in over 200 branches provide emotional support over the telephone, via email and by letter. There’s currently a pilot project trialling instant messaging too.

When people find out I volunteer at Samaritans, they usually have lots of questions. Our strict confidentiality policy – everything said in a contact remains within Samaritans – means volunteers do not share what’s been said in a call, even with those closest to them. There’s lots of support within the organisation. Common questions asked, that can be answered, include how often do you do it (I volunteer once a week) and do you always do nights (no, you can generally choose your hours but you are expected to contribute to the night shifts).

Volunteering for Samaritans is extremely rewarding: after each shift you know you have helped a number of people. You sense you’ve made a difference at the most basic level – you have been there for someone. You feel part of an army of like-minded people with similar motivations. Although the charity is vast, each branch has its own ways of doing things and each is its own unique community. As a guardian, my regular duties enable me to fulfil my 16 hours and often more.

There are lots of development opportunities within Samaritans. Each branch relies on volunteers taking on additional roles: from management, to mentoring to fundraising. Volunteers are supported to develop their skills and follow their interests. Two years into my Samaritans journey, I’m now helping my first mentee begin theirs.

You can donate to help Samaritans maintain their listening service at www.samaritans.org/donate-now. Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans any time, from any phone for free on 116 123. You can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org. For more, visit www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan.

Read more of our guardians’ volunteering stories over at our guardian spotlight

How volunteering helps everyone – not just the beneficiaries

October 29, 2020

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert

Supporting volunteering has always been central to Dot Dot Dot’s work – and our focus on it is something we are never asked to justify.   No one needs an academic paper to tell them that it’s worthwhile to support people who’d like to do good for others. And it’s easy to see that volunteers keep a huge range of worthwhile organisations going, from household names like the Samaritans and the St John’s Ambulance through to small local food banks and sports clubs.

But the indirect benefits to society as a whole of volunteering, neighbourliness and civic engagement go way beyond the benefits to individuals in need who receive help from volunteers, or to the volunteers themselves who get satisfaction from doing it.  People living in societies with more volunteering, more social connections and higher trust tend to be happier and wealthier, so participation deserves to be measured, celebrated and promoted for these reasons too.

Most current discussion of the benefit of living in a community where people are engaged – either by volunteering formally, getting involved in neighbourhood groups or helping others informally – traces back to Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, published in 2000.  In it, he argued that social capital is essential to a well-functioning democracy, and defined it as “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them”. 

He also drew a clear link between the frequency with which people get involved in third-sector activities and organisations, and higher levels of trust and social capital.  As he put it, ‘‘civic engagement and trust are mutually reinforcing’’ and ‘‘the causal arrows among civic involvement…and social trust are as tangled as well-tossed spaghetti’’. 

While it usually takes a certain amount of trust and positivity to start volunteering or to get involved with a club or society in the first place, Putnam’s point is that doing so creates a virtuous spiral – the more you participate, the more positive you feel about others because you have more good experiences and you benefit from more reciprocity.  And this in turn makes you more likely to believe that most people are basically trustworthy, which encourages you to participate more.

This is good for individuals. Sociological research repeatedly shows that higher social trust is correlated with higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction and subjective wellbeing, and we frequently hear from our guardians that their volunteering is positive for them as well as helpful to the causes they give their time to.  

But it’s also good for society as a whole.  Work by Marta Portela and others in the journal, Social Indicators Research, shows that the higher the level of social capital a country has on average, the more likely individuals in that country are to be happy and satisfied with their lives.  And these benefits occur even for those who don’t participate regularly – if you live around others who get involved and have a good opinion of their fellow citizens, your life is probably better too. 

It also makes us all richer.  A country’s average levels of social trust predicts its economic growth more accurately than its average skill levels, according to Dr David Halpern, the Chief Executive of the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team.  As he puts it, “Low trust implies a society where you have to keep an eye over your shoulder; where deals need lawyers instead of hand-shakes; where you don’t see the point of paying your tax or recycling your rubbish (since you doubt your neighbour will do so); and where you employ your cousin or your brother-in-law to work for you rather than a stranger who would probably be much better at the job.”  All of that makes life less enjoyable – but it also makes it more expensive and holds back innovation and entrepreneurship, making countries who lack social trust poorer too.

So even though most people who get involved in formal or informal volunteering do it because they want to help a specific cause and because they enjoy it, by doing so they are also making everyone a bit more likely to be happy and wealthy.  We support volunteering because of its positive impacts on good causes and on the volunteers themselves, but by doing so we hope we are also making a small contribution to building a more positive, happier and richer society as a whole.

You can find out more about our commitment to supporting the volunteering efforts of our guardians here, and read more of our guardian stories here.

Life as a Dot Dot Dot property guardian: Desire

March 6, 2020

Futurist Women launch party

Futurist Women launch party

Here at Dot Dot Dot, we support all of our property guardians to follow their passion through volunteering. For Desire, our former employee and Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian in Newham, her passion was and still is to give a platform to younger women in communities where the tools they need to develop their careers aren’t easily accessible. Through living as a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian, Desire was given the all-important time she needed to put her passion into practice and volunteer with Futurist Women.

Futurist Women is a social enterprise, established to provide exposure and equality for women and youth in underdeveloped communities: “We want to educate and empower them with the skills and knowledge to allow them to adapt to the developing trends across all disciplines.

“I’ve been involved with the project from the beginning as one of the founding team. My friend and founder of Futurist Women, Tiffany Nelson, brought the idea to me and I immediately wanted to get involved and make it happen. We want to encourage young women to think outside the box, be more creative and grow with the times and technology”

Futurist Women talks

Futurist Women talks

Desire’s main responsibility in her volunteering is to raise the profile of Futurist Women and to help them gain credibility as a social enterprise. One example was their launch party, entitled ‘Millenial Maiden’ which took place in Ghana in December 2017: “As the Curator, it was my job to organise meet-ups for the team in Ghana to make sure that plans were coming along smoothly. I oversaw and assisted in writing proposals and emails to potential guest speakers and sponsors for the event.

Futurist Women launch party

Futurist Women launch party

“Over the two days we introduced who we are and the aims of Futurist Women, alongside networking sessions and inspiring talks from leading women in various industries such as oil and gas, media, construction and health.” Ultimately, their vision is to build socially and economically conscious global leaders, who are ready to embrace gender and career equalities.

Currently, around 250 charities are in receipt of voluntary assistance from Desire and her fellow Dot Dot Dot property guardians every month. Since we began in 2011, more than 3,000 charities have been helped, and more than 1,200 people have been housed by Dot Dot Dot and contributed to their local communities through their volunteering.

To find out more about how volunteering and guardianship go together, check out our community website page or read some more of our property guardians volunteering stories here.

Spotlight on Josh

June 29, 2016

Josh became a guardian with us in early 2015 and has moved between 3 different properties in this time. His volunteering experience ranges from fundraising for WarChild at a festival to responding to emails from people with drug-related concerns with DrugScience. Here he talks about his latest venture: 

ZSLVolunteering close to your home isn’t just convenient; it helps you feel connected to your neighbourhood. I can hop on my bike and within 10 minutes be elbow-deep in compost, planting veg in the Lincoln Community Garden. It takes the same amount of time to arrive at Bow Locks (where Limehouse Cut meets the River Lea), where I put on a life-jacket and get stuck in to one of the more unusual volunteering activities I’ve tried: Eel Monitoring.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Eels escaping London’s waterways and entering the sewerage system need monitoring due to an unexplained 400% surge in toilet-emergence incidents. Their instinct to migrate upstream is unstoppable. I try to grab them as they enter the sewer overflow pipe but they are strong and slippery and I can only wrestle 4 or 5 at once.

In reality, I meet up with another eel monitoring volunteer and we record the sizes and numbers of elvers (baby eels, transparent and about finger-length) that come through Bow Locks as they migrate to find homes upstream. The project is run by the Zoological Society of London, with volunteers coordinated by Thames 21.

eels1Eels are the giant pandas of East London. They’re critically endangered, having plummeted 95% of the way to extinction in a couple of decades. I could probably struggle on in a pandaless world, but it’d be tragic to lose the European eel. They are incredible. Each elver I measure hatched in the Sargasso sea and swam from the West Atlantic to the East End. After our encounter, they head on upstream, and could be as old as I am before they return through Bow Locks as metre-long adults. They’ll head back to the Sargasso sea, breed, and die.

Dot Dot Dot helps people like me hang on in London, it’s satisfying to help eels do the same.

Get involved

  • If you’re interested in volunteering and becoming a guardian with Dot Dot Dot, apply here today
  • Keep up to date with our news and our guardians’ volunteering experiences on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

This week’s top 5 volunteering opportunities

June 24, 2016

1.UN Volunteers
Where: From Home
When: Various
Category: Translating, Writing. Editing
Commitment Level: Various

UN Volunteers have many different opportunities that you can undertake from the comfort of your home! Share your skills, knowledge and ideas from a computer anywhere in the world. To find out more and search for opportunities, click here.

2.Well Met Thamesmead
trust thamesmeadWhere: Thamesmead
When: Various
Category: Befriending, Elderly
Commitment Level: Ongoing

The Peabody Well Met befriending project in Thamesmead aims to improve quality of life for members of the community who are isolated. Befrienders can play a big part in improving confidence and providing a link to the outside world through social interaction. For more information or to register as a volunteer, please contact Sarah at Trust Thamesmead. T: 0203 828 4936 or E: sarah.feleppa@peabody.org.uk

3. Guy Fox History Project LTD
Where: London
When: Various
Category: History, Children, Education
Commitment Level: Various

Guy Fox History Project is an educational charity in London, with a mission to create innovative activities that encourage children to explore the world around them. They are looking for people who can help them distribute their resources to libraries, community centres and shops. If you are interested in this, click here.

4. Richard House Children’s Hospice
Richard HouseWhere: Liverpool Street / Woolwich Ferry
When: 14th July, 16th July, 17th July
Category: Fundraising, Hospice
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Richard House Children’s Hospice deliver clinical care, short breaks and other residential services to children and young adults, whilst supporting their families through counselling and bereavement support. They are looking for people to help with a few hours of fundraising and bucket collecting in July. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Rachel Green. T: 02075400230 E: RachelG@richardhouse.org.uk

5. Sutton Community Farm 
Harvesting for Our VegBag SchemeWhere: Wallington
When: 29th June
Category: Farm, Community, Harvest
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Sutton Community Farm aims to increase access to fresh, healthy, sustainable food and provide a shared space for people to cultivate skills, get exercise and make friends. They are looking for volunteers who have an interest in plants and vegetable production by organic methods. For more information and to register, click here.

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

June 10, 2016

1.Cleaner, Greener Volunteering 
cleaner greener volunteersWhere: Bow Churchyard
When: June 18th – 10am – 12.30pm 
Category: Gardening, Weeding, Clean-up 
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc 

The Cleaner, Greener Volunteers are looking for people to help them prepare the churchyard for their Open Garden Squares session. This will involved weeding and dead heading. If you are interested or want to find out more, please contact Chris Gennings at christine.gennings@towerhamlets.gov.uk

2.Positive Steps Thamesmead
trust thamesmeadWhere: Thamesmead
When: Various
Category: Community, Wellbeing, Signposting 
Commitment Level: Ongoing

The Positive Steps Thamesmead project is a wellbeing and signposting service for local residents, based in several well-used community facilities across Thamesmead. The Advisors team speak to members of the public to assess their various needs and refer them to appropriate support services. At the moment they are looking for Team Leaders to assist in co-ordinating the project, Advisors to meet with the public at drop-in services and Administrative Volunteers. If you are interested in this, please contact Sarah Feleppa at email: sarah.feleppa@peabody.org.uk or phone: 020 3828 4936

3.The Mill

the millWhere: 7-11 Coppermill Lane 

When: Various
Category: Community, Events, Administration, Fundraising
Commitment Level: Ongoing

The Mill is a community space run for, and by the community. They rely on volunteers to keep the building open and are currently looking for fundraising volunteers, reception and front of house volunteers and event teams volunteers. If you are interested and want to find out more, fill out the volunteer form on their website or get in touch with Helen, the Volunteer Coordinator. Email: info@themill-coppermill.org or Phone: 020 85213211

4.Chance UK
Chance ukWhere: Around London
When: Various
Category: Community, Mentor, Young People
Commitment Level: Ongoing

As a Chance UK mentor you will be a role model for a child, helping them make positive changes in their behaviour. You will be matched with a child and will meet them once a week for 2-4 hours. If you are interested in this opportunity, you can find out more and apply here.

5.Active Bucks
Active_Bucks_Logo_strapline_1500x844-3-_400x160Where: Around Buckinghamshire
When: Various
Category: Community, Active, Support
Commitment Level: Ongoing

Active Bucks are looking for people to act as Active Bucks Community Champions and help them support people to become more active, more often. Champions will represent local residents – understanding what would help them get more active. No previous regular physical activity is required, just enthusiasm. If you are interested, please contact Holly Skinner at holly.skinner@active-bucks.com

 

 

This week’s top 5 volunteering opportunities

May 20, 2016

1.Crisis

crisisWhere: Various
When: 9th June and 16th June
Category: Events, Fundraising, Homeless 
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Crisis run a number of fundraising events throughout the year and would like volunteers to help out. At the moment they are looking for volunteers to help with the Crisis Square Mile Relay on the 9th June and the Crisis Square Mile Run on the 16th June. On both days they need route marshals and site stewards. Please contact smr@crisis.org.uk or call Kayleigh on 020 7036 2879 to sign up or find out more.

2.Spires – for homeless and disadvantaged people

spiresWhere: Streatham
When: Various
Category: Drop in, Homeless, Poverty, Befriending
Commitment Level: Ongoing

Spires work with homeless and disadvantaged people. Volunteers are needed during all the sessions – from open access drop in to Women’s Space at the centre. Particular roles are assigned on a daily basis, however tasks will be a mixture of befriending, serving food and helping clients complete forms. For more information and to register your interest, click here.

3.The Bike Project

bike projectWhere: Denmark Hill
When: Thursdays 5pm-8pm 
Category: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Bikes, Befriending
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

The Bike Project are a charity who take in second hand bikes, fix them up and give them away for free to refugees and asylum seekers. This opportunity is for those interested in learning bike mechanical skills and helping those less fortunate. To apply, click here.

4.Royal National Lifeboat Institution

rnliWhere: SE1 0QL
When: Weekdays
Category: Admin, Minutes, Communication
Commitment Level: Ongoing commitment – 2 days per month

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has an opportunity available for a volunteer interested in helping to facilitate successful RNLI committee meetings by setting up meeting rooms and taking accurate minutes. To find out more, click here.

5. Spitalfields City Farm

spitalfields city farmWhere: E1 5AR
When: Various
Category: Gardening, Community, Farming
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Spitalfields City Farm was originally set up by volunteers and still relies on volunteers today to help maintain the farm and gardens, look after the animals and assist in delivering projects. There are a variety of ways to get involved, to see them click here.

 

 

Spotlight on the London Marathon

May 4, 2016

Sunday 24th April saw the masses head out across London to do a combination of running, shouting and volunteering at the iconic London Marathon. The community spirit means that it really shows London at its best.

ldn mrthOver 39,000 runners took to the streets to run the gruelling 26.2 miles. It struck us that it is amazing that 39,000 people care about a variety of causes so much, from Cancer Research UK to Guide Dogs that they chose to spend the long winter months training. They raised an incredible amount of money for some really worthwhile charities, making a huge different to the lives of so many.

Whilst thinking about this, we also thought about our great property guardians who spend 16 hours of their time each month volunteering for a large number of causes and charities. So far in 2016 this amounts to a grand total of 10,669 hours or 5.5 years of full time work.

londn marathWe wanted to explore the reasons that they volunteer, and allow them to express their motivations on our blog.

Jordan, who volunteers for Thames Reach said, ‘I take people who are homeless off the streets and into a centre where they receive further help. I do it because no one should be without a home in 2016.’

Pete, who lives with us in East London told us that volunteering is an important part of his life. ‘In the past people’s kindness and practical help have enabled me to learn and to progress in many aspects of my own life. Without this help in the past, I wouldn’t be equipped to help others as I do now. Therefore, volunteering is a way of showing my gratitude, while equipping young people with the skills needed to be of help to others in the future.

Get involved

  • If you’re interested in volunteering and becoming a guardian with Dot Dot Dot, apply here today
  • Keep up to date with our news and our guardians’ volunteering experiences on Facebook and Twitter

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

April 29, 2016

1.Listening Ears

Listening EartsWhere: Abbey Wood Community Centre
When: Various
Category: Listening, Mental Health, Support Services
Commitment Level: Ongoing

Listening Ears is a Charitable organisation established to address the increasing rate of depression arising from issues surrounding pain, grief, distress and isolation. They run a variety of projects with a range of clients. To find out more and to apply, click here.

2.Action on Hearing Loss – Fundraisers

action on hearing lossWhere: Kings Cross Underground Station
When: 13th May
Category: Fundraising, Disabilities
Commitment Level: One Off

Action on Hearing Loss are looking for people to fundraise in Kings Cross Underground Station on the 13th May. To register your interest, click here.

3.Crossness Victorian Pumping Station

crossnessWhere: Crossness, SE2 9AQ
When: Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays – 9am-4pm.
Category: Gardening, Maintenance, Education, Administration
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

There are many opportunities for volunteers to assist in the restoration, maintenance and administration of the Victorian pumping station at Crossness and to create an exhibition of sanitary history. They currently have a large range of unfilled vacancies. To find out more about the roles and to apply, click here.

4.Volunteer Teaching Assistant for Refugees

AFRILWhere: Lewisham
When: Saturdays
Category: Teaching, Young People, SEN
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

This organisation works to relieve poverty and isolation among refugees, asylum seekers and other ethnic minorities in Lewisham. They are looking for volunteers to support the teachers in delivering literacy and numeracy lessons to children with SEN across all classes. For more information and to register your interest, click here.

5.Cross Roads Care

crossroads-care-logoWhere: Eltham, SE9
When: Tuesdays and Wednesdays – 10am-2.30pm
Category: Dementia, Support, Elderly
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

Crossroads Care South East London run two memory cafes in Greenwich. The cafes are a friendly and informal meeting place and offer support to people with dementia and their carers. They are looking for people who are willing to be trained and supported to become Café Volunteers to support staff. If you are interested in this opportunity email: l.munns@ccsel.org or call: 01322 336086.

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

April 22, 2016

1.Cleaner, Greener Volunteers 

Bow ChurchWhere: Bow Church
When: First Saturday of the month from 7th May 10.00-13.00 
Commitment level: Low
Category: Gardening, Conservation

Cleaner Greener Volunteers are looking for people to help them maintain and develop the gardens at Bow Church. The church is set for restoration in 2017, and this is the beginning of a project to make a garden which is equally attractive. There is also a vegetable growing project onsite, to provide crops for the church’s weekly food bank. If you are interested please contact Chris Gennings. Email: christine.gennings@towerhamlets.gov.uk Phone: 020 7364 3757.

2. Imagine Mainstream – Mentors

imagine1Where: Wallington, SM6 0EX
When: Flexible – Monday to Friday, morning or afternoons
Commitment level: Regular Commitment
Category: Mental Health, Employment, Mentoring

Imagine Mainstream supports individuals with mental health problems into paid employment and/or volunteering.
Mentoring Service Mentors will work directly with clients to help them become more independent. Mentors will provide support for clients to achieve practical goals, for example; improving wellbeing, getting into a routine and volunteering. Mentors provide a safe space for clients to talk through difficulties and find their own answers.

For more information and to register your interest, please click this link.

3.Richard House Children’s Hospice – Fundraisers

Richard HouseWhere: Woolwich Ferry
When: 14th and 15th May 
Commitment level: Low
Category: Fundraising, Bucket Collecting

Richard House Children’s Hospice are looking for some volunteers to join them in raising money to go towards important equipment and projects at the Hospice. If you are interested, please contact Rachel Green. Email: RachelG@richardhouse.org.uk Phone: 02075400230

4. Deen City Farm – Farm Support Volunteers

Deen city farmWhere: Deen City Farm, SW19
When: Flexible
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment
Category: Animals, Outdoors, Young People
Deen City Farm is a community farm offering a free family days out. They work with a wide range of farm animals, provide riding lessons, weekend and holiday play schemes, educational tours and visits to local schools.
Deen City Farm is looking for people to support other volunteers, who may have disabilities or mental health issues in their work at the Farm. Volunteers can also assist with Farm Tours for local schoolchildren or evening groups and kids’ activities during school holidays.
To apply, complete an application form and send to the farm’s Volunteer Coordinator at the email below. Get in touch for more information, either by calling 020 8545 2171 or emailing volunteers@deencityfarm.co.uk.

5.Plumstead Make Merry Festival
plumstead make merryWhere: Plumstead Common
When: 11th June 
Commitment Level: Low
Category: Children, sport and outdoor activities

On Saturday June 11th, 5000 people will head to Plumstead Common for a day of music, arts and activities that celebrate the history of the area and its diverse community. The festival is put together solely by volunteers. They are looking for event stewards on the day to help with the smooth running of the event. To find out more and apply for the opportunity, click here.

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