Why should you bother to volunteer?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Bell ringers are volunteers.  We generally give our time freely for service or civic ringing and only occasionally get paid a nominal amount for #bellringing for weddings and funerals.  Those of us who are tower officers, district officers, association officers, or on one of the Central Council’s workgroups, or part of the executive team, volunteer, free of charge.  Should we?  That’s a question for another day, today I shall focus on why we volunteer in the first place.

The NCVO, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, defines volunteering as…

“…any activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives. Central to this definition is the fact that volunteering must be a choice freely made by each individual.

This can include formal activity undertaken through public, private and voluntary organisations as well as informal community participation and social action. Everyone has the right to volunteer and volunteering can have significant benefits for individuals.”  https://www.ncvo.org.uk/policy-and-research/volunteering-policy

Some may see volunteering as an obligation.  Something they feel compelled to do as an act of duty, or they feel morally bound to do. I personally feel obligated to give something back to the hobby that has done so much for me other the years.  Very many people have given up their time and talents to teach me how to ring, to help me learn a new method, to ring a quarter peal or a peal, to understand the wider picture of the ringing community.  I feel I owe it to them to pass that on to the next generation.

Having pride and a sense of duty might drive some on. They want to be a part of something, like neighbourhood watch, or a climate change group, they have a call to action to do something positive, something that they are enthused about and take pride in a job well done at the end of the day, say of clearing rubbish from the beach.  Others take pride in the success of achievement, having said that you were there, or part of something, or achieved something.

If we’re not careful volunteering can give us a false sense of ourselves.  We might see it as an opportunity to brag, “oh yes, I volunteered to save the whales” or “I volunteered to help patients at the local hospital”.  Whilst the work itself may have been valuable to those on the receiving end, we’re kidding ourselves if we are thinking its in our best interests, and it may only offer us a temporary sense of pleasure, before we start to feel it as a chore.

I’ll admit there are times when I’ve gone right off ringing.  I do quite a lot at tower, district, association and Central Council level.  If I’m not actually ringing, I’m at a meeting about ringing, or writing a report or article about ringing, or answering emails and phone calls about ringing, or being interviewed about ringing, or trying to promote ringing.  It’s like having another full time job outside of my day job.  There are sometimes when I really feel the need to not do anything to do with ringing at all for a few days. 

Sometimes we do things out of love for someone or something else.  We might volunteer to do the elderly neighbours shopping or cut their grass.  We might volunteer at an animal shelter because we love dogs or cats, or whatever.

This sense of altruism is when we have absolutely no interest in the consequences to ourselves, it might cost a bit of money, or take time out of our busy day, or take us in a different route, but have a selfless concern with the wellbeing of others.

When we are passionate, or enthusiastic about something, it is much easier to get involved in its activities.  If we’re passionate about #bellringing, it’s any easy thing to start to help with some of the maintenance, or making the tea for the district meeting, or become an officer, or more. When we have the desire to want to do something, we are more likely to do it voluntarily. 

Volunteering often leads on to something else.  You may start off volunteering in a particular role so that you can gain some experience, and once you have that experience, it will help you apply for a paid post in that role.  If you have volunteering listed on your CV or your further education application form, it shows that you are willing to help out, that you have other interests, that you can multi-task and plan.

Bell ringers get in to it through destiny or family tradition.  My dad learned to ring when he was a teenager, and when my siblings and I all reached the age of 11 we were taken up the tower and given a lesson.  The three of us girls took to it, but my brother didn’t.  My husband also rings, and my step-daughter learned to ring.  She went on the meet her husband as a ringer too.  Our daughter learnt to ring.  She doesn’t do it now she’s left home, but she understands the rules when she does come home that that’s what we do, and she’ll come along and make herself useful on the end of a rope.  She even went to stay with her aunt for a week and they took her out to their practices so she probably rang more in that week than she had all year.

There also used to be a tradition with church choirs that when boys voices broke and they had to withdraw for the younger voices but weren’t quite settled for the gentlemen choir, the natural progress was to push them into the tower so that they were still involved in the church.

As mentioned earlier, some people want others to notice what they do.  They advertise, all too easily on social media, that they helped out with this, or they raised funds for that, but there main purpose is to get “likes” and comments along the lines of “oh well done you, that was so nice of you”.  It makes them look good in front of others.

Having a shared hobby with others where you get mutual benefits that go with socialising, achieving things as part of a team and something that you can share with others when you talk about #bellringing is true altruism. Doing something for the greater good might not necessarily mean doing something you enjoy, or necessarily want to do, but realising that by helping out it will make it easier for everyone.  This could be helping clean the belfry and the tower, or organising the social events. 

The many benefits of volunteering have been well documented. It can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your university application or career, and even help you feel happier and healthier by connecting you with others and your community. For some it enables them to bring their skills and experience to the service of the wider community, whilst for others it enables them to branch out and use skills which may have been under-employed in their working life. With busy lives, it can be difficult to find time to volunteer; however the benefits can be enormous, providing vital support to a worthwhile cause and heling others

The wide range #bellringing activities mean that volunteering can be very diverse and satisfying. It covers many areas including engineering, education, publicity and promotion, library services, the media, historical research, event management and the technical development of ringing.

How are you giving back through volunteering?


One thought on “Why should you bother to volunteer?

  1. I’ve heard that volunteering can make you happier. Maybe I should find something near here that I can support 😉😆


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