We can all do our bit to help oth­ers – and it’s good for your health too

Jack Martin out­lines the ben­e­fits of com­mu­nity vol­un­teer­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially for older peo­ple

The Scotsman - - Friends Of The Scotsman -

Foot­ball fever may be hot­ting up with the World Cup, but the vol­un­teer­ing com­mu­nity has been do­ing their own cel­e­brat­ing re­cently with Na­tional Vol­un­teer Week, which runs an­nu­ally from 1-7 June. This aware­ness week gives char­i­ties and or­gan­i­sa­tions an op­por­tu­nity to say thank you for the fan­tas­tic con­tri­bu­tion vol­un­teers make.

Dur­ing Na­tional Vol­un­teer Week, hun­dreds of events and cel­e­bra­tions took place across the coun­try, recog­nis­ing the di­ver­sity of vol­un­teers, and thank­ing them for their con­tri­bu­tion to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties through­out Scot­land.

At Ed­in­burgh Leisure we took this op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate the im­pact and con­tri­bu­tion that vol­un­teers make to our pro­grammes by host­ing a thank you lunch at the Royal Botanic Gar­dens’ Cot­tage.

As a char­ity, Ed­in­burgh Leisure is ded­i­cated to cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to lead more ac­tive, healthy lives. Our Ac­tive Com­mu­ni­ties Team uses the power of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and sport to help those in need im­prove their health and well­be­ing.

We fo­cus on pro­vid­ing help and sup­port to groups and com­mu­ni­ties who face the great­est bar­ri­ers and are typ­i­cally much less ac­tive, such as women and girls, peo­ple liv­ing with health con­di­tions, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, older adults, mi­nor­ity eth­nic groups and those from low in­come and dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds.

Vol­un­teers play a vi­tal role in sup­port­ing peo­ple to get ac­tive in many ways. Our vol­un­teers sup­port a range of peo­ple to ac­cess ac­tiv­i­ties more con­fi­dently; pro­vid­ing ex­tra sup­port to peo­ple liv­ing with health con­di­tions such as can­cer or de­men­tia, mo­ti­vat­ing and en­cour­ag­ing chil­dren to de­velop healthy habits through phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and be­ing there to of­fer a help­ing hand to peo­ple who are try­ing to build more phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity into their lives. The time and ef­fort that vol­un­teers give re­ally does make a dif­fer­ence to the health and well­be­ing of the peo­ple of Ed­in­burgh.

Over the last 12 months, 185 vol­un­teers have con­trib­uted more than 10,000 hours of their own time to Ac­tive Com­mu­ni­ties pro­grammes, en­cour­ag­ing and sup­port­ing peo­ple to get ac­tive, stay ac­tive and im­prove their health and well­be­ing.

Seventy of these vol­un­teers pro­vide sup­port for our multi-award-win­ning Age­ing Well Project which of­fers 10 dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties to help in­ac­tive older adults get ac­tive and stay ac­tive, from walk­ing and cy­cling to danc­ing and swim­ming. In recog­ni­tion of the work it does, the group were awarded the Queen’s Award for Vol­un­tary Ser­vice (QAVS) 2018 at the be­gin­ning of June.

This award was cre­ated by the Queen in 2002 to cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary of her corona­tion, recog­nis­ing ex­cel­lence in vol­un­tary ac­tiv­i­ties car­ried out by groups in the com­mu­nity. It is the MBE for vol­un­teer groups.

There are many rea­sons why peo­ple choose to vol­un­teer with Ed­in­burgh Leisure. They may want to give some­thing back to their com­mu­ni­ties; to help oth­ers to get ac­tive and live healthier, hap­pier lives; to meet like-minded peo­ple and ex­pand their group of friends; or to de­velop new skills and gain ex­pe­ri­ence of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and health pro­grammes.

One of our Age­ing Well Vol­un­teers com­mented: “I find vol­un­teer­ing gives me some­thing to get up for. See­ing iso­lated peo­ple get their lives back, in­stead of be­ing stuck in­side four walls, is the most re­ward­ing thing.”

Reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity ses­sions give par­tic­i­pants the con­fi­dence to be ac­tive and gives peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to so­cialise and feel less iso­lated, make friends and ex­tend their sup­port net­work. These ben­e­fits could not be de­liv­ered with­out the sup­port of vol­un­teers.

Vol­un­teer­ing isn’t just about giv­ing some­thing back, it also ben­e­fits the in­di­vid­ual vol­un­teer. A sur­vey con­ducted by the Bri­tish House­hold Panel found that those who en­gaged in vol­un­teer­ing reg­u­larly ap­peared to ex­pe­ri­ence higher lev­els of men­tal health and well­be­ing than those who never vol­un­teered. Though fur­ther re­search needs to be done to es­tab­lish links be­tween vol­un­teer­ing and the phys­i­cal and men­tal health ben­e­fits, it is hu­man nature to feel good af­ter help­ing some­one.

Through vol­un­teer­ing with Ed­in­burgh Leisure, our vol­un­teers have the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop their

abil­i­ties and gain new skills. A stu­dent vol­un­teer on our falls pre­ven­tion pro­gramme Steady Steps told us: “Vol­un­teer­ing with Ed­in­burgh Leisure has pro­vided me with the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop my re­search skills and be­come more con­fi­dent in­ter­act­ing with oth­ers.”

With 119 Ac­tive Com­mu­ni­ties classes de­liv­ered each week, the ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity are help­ing both par­tic­i­pants and vol­un­teers im­prove their health and well­be­ing to live bet­ter, longer lives. It goes with­out say­ing that the con­tri­bu­tion of our vol­un­teers makes such a vi­tal dif­fer­ence to so many of our pro­grammes and we couldn’t do it with­out them. Thank you.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on vol­un­teer­ing with Ed­in­burgh Leisure, con­tact 0131 458 2000, ac­tive@ed­in­burgh­leisure.co.uk or visit www.ed­in­burgh­leisure.co.uk Jack Martin is the com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer (Vol­un­teer­ing) within Ed­in­burgh Leisure’s Ac­tive Com­mu­ni­ties team.

0 Vol­un­teers tak­ing part in the Paths for All project at the Royal Botanic Gar­dens

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