FROM search and rescue work for the police, to keeping the elderly company – there are many opportunities to give something back.

Recent appeals for volunteers have come from Oxfordshire lowland Search And Rescue (OxSAR), Age UK, and Helen and Douglas House Hospices.

And it is said that volunteers can get much more out of giving up their time, as well as getting the chance to pick up skills and gain experience.

Volunteering boosts employability, self-esteem and health, according to a new report published by the Citizens Advice Bureau.

The new report, CAB volunteering – how everyone benefits, reveals that four in five people who give their time to the Citizens Advice service believe volunteering has had a positive effect on their health.

In 2013, more than 80 volunteers gave up their time for Oxford CAB, helping 6,500 clients to solve over 9,000 problems.

Oxford Mail:

Gill Tishler, above, director of Oxford CAB, said: “These are tough times and I think the value of having a well-resourced service can support people in facing these challenges is difficult to underestimate.

“In the current economic climate having people who are willing to give up their time to deliver the service we have here is even more important.”

She said Volunteers’ Week was a good chance to showcase what they did and thank them for it.

The service director said more than 80 people gave up their time to help at the St Aldate’s office – from reception work to giving out advice on accommodation and finance.

She said: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of Oxford CAB. They make a huge contribution to the local community, helping to support 6,500 people each year when they need it the most.”

Nationally, more than 22,000 volunteers gave up their time to help people in the Citizens Advice Bureau, resulting in more than £100million of volunteering hours.

Ms Tishler said: “The service here could not run without the input of the volunteers.

But she said: “People get a lot back from it. It does keep people engaged with their community, it keeps people updated with the issues other people are having to deal with. It is a two-way thing.”

Oxford CAB volunteer Michael Bevan, 57, from Abingdon, said: “I have been volunteering with Oxford CAB for about a year and have really enjoyed it.

“I’ve learned a lot about an incredibly wide range of advice areas. At the same time my confidence in dealing with challenging situations and complex organisations has grown enormously.

“I get a real sense of achievement from making a difference to other people’s lives – and it makes a big difference to mine too.”

The report also found 90 per cent of volunteers felt an increased sense of purpose or self-esteem and 80 per cent felt they were now more likely to get a job.

Oxford Mail:

Steve Archibald, above, a volunteer for search and rescue group OxSAR, said the group gave up 5,609 man-hours last year to help search for missing people.

The 44-year-old, who runs an oven-cleaning business, said across the country similar volunteer search teams saved police forces an estiamted £3.8m in 2013.

The 40-strong team last month appealed for more help after Thames Valley Police called it out to 30 incidents between January and May – more than the whole of last year.

Thames Valley Police has had to cut £55m from its £386m budget following cuts from Government.

Oxford Mail:

The OxSAR team, including chairman Pat Conafray, far right

This year OxSAR has helped to search for missing Eynsham grandmother Jackie Gulliford.

The search team were also the first to find Firzana Saeed, discovered dead in the river behind Oxford Ice Rink in March.

Mr Archibald, who moved from Summertown to near Henley last month, said the volunteers were often woken in the middle of the night to go out and search.

But he said: “Whenever we are out on a search there is a family somewhere waiting on the phone. We are always very aware that there is a family involved.”

The volunteer said the team had a dinner lady and a retired banker among its ranks.

And he added: “We are always looking for more volunteers. We have to raise £12,000 a year just to keep ticking over.”

For more information about the CAB visit and to volunteer for the search and rescue email or call Pat Conafray on 07788 583543.

Giving provides feel-good factor

The Citizens Advice Bureau’s Value of Volunteering report released to mark Volunteers’ Week, which ends today, found:
Nine in 10 people reported an increased sense of purpose or self-esteem
Four in five believe they have increased their employability
Nine in 10 feel more engaged in their community
Nine in 10 feel better equipped and empowered to deal with issues in their lives – with four in five also helping friends and family.

Hospital helpers are valuable part of the trust

MORE than 300 people volunteer at Oxfordshire’s hospitals – from helping nurses to gardening and manning the help desks.

Oxford Mail: Oxford University Hospitals voluntary services manager Yvonne Blencowe, above, said: “Our volunteers are an essential part of the trust.
“The contribution and commitment they make each day is greatly appreciated by our patients, visitors and members of staff.
“There are many reasons why people volunteer and we have an extremely diverse group of volunteers including retired people who give up time to help others and meet new people, students who want to train as doctors or nurses, and those who simply want to give something back to the NHS after they or their family have
benefitted from our services.”
Jayne Grainger, 70, volunteers at the Churchill Hospital in Headington after she had a large ovarian cyst removed there in 2010.
She now gives up every Friday and alternate Wednesdays to work on the main reception help desk and to garden at the Jane Ashley Ward where she was treated.
Mrs Grainger, who lives in Reading, said: “All the tea in China could not say “thank you” for what they did for me. If I lived nearer I would be here every day.”

Age concern

Oxford Mail:

Paul Cann, above, chief executive of Age UK Oxfordshire, said: “With government cuts and less funding available, organisations need an increasing number of volunteers to deliver their services.
“Age UK Oxfordshire currently has over 500 volunteers who are vital to the work that we do throughout the county.
“Volunteering can bring much enjoyment and it can help us to remain active and contribute to society as we get older. 
“We are a rapidly ageing population and Oxfordshire is a rural county, where access to transport can be limited.
“Many older people are becoming isolated, which can have a substantial impact on health and wellbeing. 
“Giving time within our communities, such as becoming a volunteer driver, joining a befriending service or supporting someone to stay independent at home can make a huge difference to their quality of life.”
Find out about volunteer opportunities at Age UK Oxfordshire by contacting 0345 450 1276.

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