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As part of Volunteers Week 2014 we are showcasing some of our volunteers' amazing achievements. This year we are profiling volunteers who represent some of the more diverse volunteering roles we have within The Children’s Society.
Rod Cooper, a volunteer in the records and archives team has answered a few questions about his experience of volunteering with us.
Q: What is your role with The Children’s Society?
A: I’m presently researching The Children’s Society’s historic publications from 1960s to 1990s – members’ magazines and annual reports – to glean information relating to specific homes, projects and activities.
For how long have you been volunteering with us?
I started in the Autumn of 2011, on the Including the Excluded project, which looked into the records of disabled children in care 100 years ago.
Why did you choose to volunteer with The Children’s Society and how did you get involved?
I first found out about the role by word-of-mouth and subsequent reference to an internet job site. After finding out about the general vacancy I was referred to a magazine article describing the Including the Excluded project. The aims of the project and the material it was accessing and processing appealed greatly.
What is a typical day of volunteering like for you?
After a brief chat and catch-up on recent events, it’s straight on with the work. With my present project this involves researching The Children’s Society former publications, such as Gateway and Children in Focus, and examination of annual reports.
The information I gather from these publications – typically reference to a specific project or undertaking – is then entered on to a spreadsheet. Over a period of time it is quite easy to see how the activities of the charity evolve and develop.
What have you enjoyed the most about volunteering with us?
I’ve been fortunate to work on a number of projects, including handling and preparing documentation relating to the Including the Excluded project. But perhaps of greater interest to me is a time-line I’ve been researching that charts the various projects and activities undertaken by The Children’s Society from the mid-sixties though to 2000.
It has been fascinating, for example, to map the closure of residential homes throughout the 1960s and '70s and to record the increasing advent of family centres and more specialised and ad hoc activities during the same period. The increasingly varied activities of The Children’s Society very much reflects changes in social attitudes and an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable economic environment.
Tell us about a particular highlight of your volunteering?
There are a number of highlights. Of one particular note are the blogs I prepared during my work on the Including the Excluded project. Essentially these were biographies of some of the children who were in the care of The Children’s Society during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
More recently the research work I’ve done relating to the activities of The Children’s Society throughout the three decades since 1965 has been most interesting. I’ve already mentioned these developments reflecting changes in society in general, but to record and chart these changes, to witness the evolution and development of The Children’s Society and the broadening of its activities, has been very rewarding. This has been manifest in so many ways.
For example, on one hand the steady closure of residential homes and the decline in the numbers of nursery age children for adoption. While on the other hand, there has been the widespread development of family centres, a change in emphasis and increased reference to young people and, some 20 years following the decline of adoption activities and changes in legislation, the development of post-adoption care and counselling activities since the early 1980s.
Was volunteering what you expected it to be?
I had a very good interview which presented a very accurate portrayal of the work I’d be undertaking, even to the point a providing a practical demonstration of the activities involved. This being the case there were no unexpected ‘surprises’ and the initial induction period ran very smoothly. I have regular formal meetings with my supervisor that allows us to discuss my specific work and the activities of the Archives and Records Centre and The Children’s Society in general. In short, volunteering with The Children’s Society has met and exceeded my expectations.
What have you gained from volunteering with The Children’s Society?
From a personal, and general, standpoint it is important for me to be working and to be involved in something useful. More specifically it has been very rewarding to be allowed such insight into the past; whether this been with regard to the individual case histories of children in The Children’s Society’s care during the late nineteenth century, or charting the charity's general development during the latter half of the twentieth century.
What would you say to other people who are interested in volunteering with The Children’s Society?
Volunteering activities are many and varied, so it’s not possible to be too specific, but one thing I would say, and it should help any volunteer to see their role in context, is to develop a broad understanding of The Children’s Society and its activities, and try and gain some insight into its history and development.
What would be your three top tips for new volunteers?
1. Be patient and allow the role to develop in good time. If the role is for a single day each week, there is an understandable desire and expectation to ‘fly’ from day one. It can be frustrating to wait another week to prove yourself. So allow yourself time to settle in – there’s no need to impress everyone from the outset.
2. It’s important to understand your work and activities within context. If you have a broad understanding of The Children’s Society’s activities and some knowledge of its heritage and history, you will have a fuller appreciation and value more the work you undertake. Hopefully your induction will cover some of this and some published material will be made available to you.
3. This might seem blindingly obvious, but try and attend regularly. It builds up a rapport and strengthens the bond and relationship between volunteers and regular staff. If there is a problem with attending on any particular day, make sure your supervisor is advised in good time. It will ensure that time and effort is not wasted preparing for your visit.
Get involved in volunteering
We have over 11,000 volunteers supporting our services, and this is just one of the many ways you can get involved and help children, young people and their families.
For more information on our volunteering opportunities.