– By Frank Ross, Rock Trust Volunteer Coordinator

Last year at the Rock Trust we were lucky enough to have volunteers across 8 different roles contribute 7096 hours to support our goal of ending youth homelessness. For a voluntary organisation of only 35 staff and an average of 30 volunteers throughout the course of the year this is no mean feat. We have almost trebled the amount of time volunteers provided from the previous year, equating to close to an additional 4.5 full time members of staff. The benefit this has had to young people is considerable, and the impact it has had on our volunteers can best be captured in their own words.

‘When I started volunteering with the Rock Trust, although I was nervous, I could feel a sense of optimism and confidence returning. The experience helped me to feel capable and confident applying for a paid position at the Rock Trust when one came up – which I was delighted to get.’ – Sam Clark, former Peer Mentor.

Companies that offer volunteering opportunities to their staff also play a significant role. Corporate volunteers are a huge asset to us, regularly helping to redecorate our flats for young people so that when they move into their new homes it is a welcoming and comforting environment, something that is invaluable given the often traumatic challenges they have been through to get there.

Franklin Templeton Volunteer Team 2017

We know that volunteering requires effort and application. We also know that volunteers make things happen and that volunteers get things done. They can also be great role models for the young people accessing our services.

The vast majority of volunteers tell us when they come to the Rock Trust that they want to learn, give something back and are volunteering to make a difference. We also aim to make a difference to them. Volunteering can have a hugely positive impact upon the health and well-being of the wider community. The benefits are wide-ranging; developing confidence; learning new skills; meeting people from different social and cultural backgrounds; contributing to social change; developing valuable experience for employment.

‘It’s so rewarding because you are seeing a change in the young person week on week. If I can have any positive impact on the young person’s life then I am doing my job right’. – Andi Trotter, Peer Mentor.

If you volunteer it may not seem like it but you’re part of something huge, which goes far beyond the Rock Trust alone. You’re one of 19.8 million people. You’re contributing more to the economy than the Royal Family. You’re having an amazing impact upon your community and society, and, in the case of Rock Trust Volunteers, the lives of young people who in many cases have been lacking the support of individuals willing to invest in them.

This week is Volunteer’s Week, as many of you will know. Established by Volunteer England in 1984 the week-long campaign celebrates the contribution volunteers make to organisations, individuals and communities across the UK. This year Volunteers’ Week turns 34 years old. Older than the majority of staff working at the Rock Trust. Honest! And why does this celebration get a whole week? Because we need that much time to explain the impact of volunteers.  (Cue the introduction of some mindboggling stats…….)

Let’s tantalise the fiscally prudent and begin with the financial contribution of volunteering to the UK. It was estimated that volunteering was worth over £24 billion to the UK economy last year, an increase from £22.6 in 2015.

In 2016/17, 19.8 million (37%) people in the UK volunteered formally at least once a year and 11.9 million (22%) of people did so at least once a month.

These are impressive statistics, but if like me you’re interested in the softer outcomes, you’ll want to see how volunteering impacts individuals on a personal level.

The “Feel Good Effect” – that warm glow that you get, can be triggered by helping others, which induces a release of dopamine in the brain. A study by the London School of Economics found that people who volunteer weekly are, on average, 16% happier than those who don’t. That’s just once a week. I’m unsure as to how happiness is measured in percentages but, ultimately, the more volunteering people do then the happier they will be. Contributing factors for this increase in happiness can be attributed to the following:

  • More than 68% of those who volunteered in the past year report that volunteering made them feel physically healthier.
  • 29% of volunteers who suffer from a chronic condition say that volunteering has helped them manage their chronic illness.
  • 89% of volunteers agree that volunteering improved their sense of well-being.
  • 73% of volunteers feel that volunteering lowered their stress levels.
  • 92% of volunteers agree that volunteering enriches their sense of purpose in life.

Whatever their contribution, big or small, it’s undeniably important to celebrate volunteers. If you are one, please take the time to soak in that warm glow of the feel good factor and know how appreciated you are.

We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has volunteered with the Rock Trust. Whether that be at one off events, to those who have committed a significant amount of time and, in some cases, even offered their homes. To each and every one of you, on behalf of the Rock Trust – THANK YOU! And Happy Volunteers’ Week!

Volunteers at Edinburgh Marathon Festival Water Station 2018