You've heard of the phrase 'money makes the world go round'? Well I think it should be 'volunteers make the world go round' because without volunteers the world would be a much worse off place.

So many people give up their free time to contribute in a positive way to society. It might be something simple like going shopping for an elderly neighbour or contributing specific skills to an organisation or charity. It might be raising awareness or fundraising. Today on International Volunteer Day, we celebrate all those people!

 

I think it's safe to say that I wouldn't be where I am today, in my life and career if I hadn't given so much of my time to volunteering. Not just in design but other experiences as well, such as working with children in schools, the SRSB (Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind) and of course, Fair Grounds.

Fair Grounds has been in operation for 8 years now, but its success is only due to all the volunteers who generously give their time, talents and ideas to the development and running of the social enterprise.

I have been volunteering with Fair Grounds from the start undertaking all kinds of roles; helping out at stalls & festivals, promoting it to friends and colleagues and most recently managing the shop in Sheffield, co-ordinating the social media sites, the photography and doing all the graphic design, including for our brand new web shop and shop flyers. It has given me the opportunity to develop my design skills and see my work make a positive difference in the world, and meet many interesting people. It's also lots of fun! Why do I do it? I've always enjoyed volunteering, helping people out. It's fun and in terms of design really rewarding, people are so grateful. And that's always nice to hear. Contributing to something I believe in (fair trade) is really important to me and I want Fair Grounds to succeed so that we can continue to help support those less fortunate around the world. We know we are making a difference to others in their lives because Nina has had the opportunity to travel to various countries to see firsthand the positive impact our work is having. I hope to go with her one day and meet the producers myself and do some travel photography at the same time. Also what kind of a sister would I be if I didn't help out?

In our shop in Sheffield, we have a team of over 12 volunteers (of all ages including school and university students, full-time employed and retired people) who give up their time for a morning, afternoon or full day once a week or fortnight. One of our shop volunteers, Cathy, has been volunteering since the shop opened in February and heard about us through a friend, both of whom were part of a Fair Trade network in Sheffield.

“I enjoy working in the Fair Trade shop in Sheffield because I feel that I am doing a bit more to promote awareness of something that I believe in strongly. I like the variety of tasks - serving customers, taking deliveries and pricing etc, putting out stock on shelves and more recently I have really enjoyed doing some local promotion and publicity. There is always time to have a chat with whoever else is working in the shop that day and, of course, the opportunity to see what's new in the wide variety of Ethical and Fairly Traded goods in the shop.”

Two of our youngest volunteers attend a local Sheffield high school and are volunteering as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Once a week they come after school to volunteer for an hour, putting out new stock, pricing up and serving customers on the till. There's also a university student, giving up precious weekends to help me with product photography for the webshop, and doing a fantastic job!

Outside of the shop we have other volunteers (mainly friends and family) who help with setting up and running stalls at events and festivals, and as well as selling the products, sharing the stories of the people who made them. This year my mum and dad went to Glastonbury for the first time to help out with the Fair Grounds stall! It's a lot of work setting up a stall especially one as big as ours, so without them it just wouldn't happen.

So many people are contributing to Fair Grounds and we are so grateful. It really wouldn't happen without them!

If you don't already volunteer somewhere, why don't you have a think about what you could do and how much time you could commit to supporting something positive where you are? There are lots of opportunities out there just waiting for you. If you are in Sheffield, the VAS (Voluntary Action Sheffield) website is a good place to start and I'm sure there will be similar organisations all over the country. Just give it a go and see what happens!