Word of the Week: Adventures

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This week has been week one of the school holidays and we’ve been planning our adventures – the list from the boys isn’t particularly adventurous but it is fun to have time without the bind of school timetables and activities. This week was a bit odd as we still had ballet (Miss Littlesheep), tennis squads (Biggest Littlesheep) and swimming lesson (Littlest Littlesheep) so with that time table and Biggest taking part in two tennis tournaments there wasn’t much week for adventuring.

This was also the week we pretended to own a dog – my mum did a London-Paris cycle ride (very proud of her on her adventures) and when my dad went out to join her for a mini-break in Paris we looked after their dog so we had lots of dog outings.

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We bought a fire pit, had a fire and made smores…

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We caught some Pokemon (and some like this little beastie got away)…

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The middle two signed up for the summer library reading challenge (and Little Miss got a card for the mini challenge).

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and we had a day out at Worcester Country Park (the phone ran out of battery from Pokemon-hunting so no photos of the park) but it was a great day out meeting up with NCT volunteers from Worcestershire to campaign to save their children’s centres before milkshakes and toasted teacakes in the cafe, a play in the park and a walk in the woods.

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175 words is not enough…

As you may already know I’m standing in the election to be a NCT Trustee and as part of the process you get to answer three questions that are put on the website for the public to read…

  • 150 words for a biography,
  • 175 words to say why you want to be elected
  • and a list of NCT roles held (past or current).

So 150 words for a biography is a challenge – but if you want to know more about my background you can read it on LinkedIn  which tells you a lot more about what I have done.

If that is a challenge 175 words for why you want to be a trustee is attempting the impossible – I hope I wrote enough to get people interest… So without the word restrictions that mean every word has to be carefully crafted here are some more reasons:

  1. I love NCT – I’ve been involved as a volunteer for over 12 years and I’m not a practitioner or employee so every minute of my time has been given for FREE and lets face it you wouldn’t do that for a charity you didn’t love would you?
  2. I’m proud of NCT’s work to increase reach – of course we still have a way to go but if you look at our annual conference now and compare it to 10 years ago we are a much more varied bunch (even at the most simple level the number of dads there reminding us that we are for all parents not just mums) and I want to be part of making sure we extend this even further.
  3. I’ve had a fantastic time as a Regional Coordinator and whilst I’d happily continue for longer I think that after nearly eight years in the role it’s about time to hand it over to someone else to let them have that fun and experience –  so I’m looking for a new challenge
  4. I’m passionate about supporting new parents to make the choices that are right for them and want all parents to have access to the evidence based information they need without commercial pressure (read the Politics of Breastfeeding if you need some examples)
  5. I know the NCT branch and region structure inside out and upside down and I feel that this knowledge base will be an asset to the board to balance the professional skills that our trustees have.
  6. I love papers, reports, policies and procedures – it’s what I do when I go out to work, it’s why I ended up on the Steering Committee of the British Youth Council (which was my volunteering before I had a baby!) and it’s why I have learnt so much about NCT as I’ve read ever piece of information I can get my hands on!
  7. I have understanding of the issues in Wales – the Nominations and Governance committee were particularly asking for candidates from Wales and I nearly didn’t apply because I strongly believe that the board should represent all of the nations that make up the UK but as their isn’t a candidate from Wales one who has longstanding links with volunteers from across Wales (and the other devolved nations) I know some of the challenges NCT being seen as an ‘English’ charity causes.

And as for the roles I’ve held.. I kept it simple with “I am currently the West Midlands Regional Coordinator and Chair of NCT’s Regional Volunteer Support Network as well as volunteering in my local branch as a NCT Breastfeeding Peer Supporter / Bumps and Babies host. I have held a variety of other branch roles across three different branches over the last 12 years.”

The real list of NCT voluntary experience:

  • Open House Host
  • Nearly New Sale Volunteer
  • Open House Coordinator
  • Branch Secretary
  • Branch Chair (as it was back then) Coventry branch
  • NCT Rep (at a Children’s Centre Parents Forum)
  • Branch Volunteer
  • Interim Branch Coordinator (after the role title changed) Warwickshire Central branch
  • Branch Treasurer (of a brand new branch) Southam & Villages branch
  • Branch Newsletter Editor
  • Interim Branch Coordinator
  • Breastfeeding Peer Supporter
  • Branch Webmaster
  • Bumps and Babies host

Sorry I can’t remember the exact dates – some of them e.g. Nearly New Sale Volunteer are ‘ongoing since 2004’ and some of them are roles I held and passed on. I was definitely a Rep in 2009 as I went to Rep’s forum in Swansea and the new Southam & Villages branch started in 2010.

You can read more about #mynctstory here.

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Diamond Jubilee Award

starsOn Saturday at our  training day I was thrilled to be presented with a NCT Diamond Jubilee Award for my volunteering.

The citation read:

“As Regional Coordinator, Elaine supports all volunteers in the West Midlands as well as her local branch at grass-roots level. Her Facebook groups encourage the sharing of ideas between branches and also help everyone to coordinate dates and resources. She is an enthusiastic Breastfeeding Peer Supporter, turning up, week in, week out, to her branch group, where she is often to be found supporting new mums as well as helping with setting up and tidying away at the end of the session. She has been doing all this for more than a decade and helped hundreds of new parents.”

NCT Nearly New Sales

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On Saturday I volunteered at a NCT Nearly New Sale (one of the biggest in the country I think) – I’ve lost count of how many I have helped at over the last 12 years but I’m guessing it’s around thirty across three different branches and here are five reasons  to help out:

  1. NCT volunteers run the sales giving their time freely which means unlike commercially run sales every single penny raised (from a % of the ticket price at a ticketed sale that the biggest branches do or the table charges at a table top sale that smaller branches tend to do), the door money, the refreshment money and any commercial partnerships goes to the work of the charity supporting parents in the First 1,000 Days
  2. It’s great fun and a way to catch up with old friends  – people volunteer time and time again and it’s great to see people again and share updates whilst sorting the items
  3. You get the opportunity for pre-sale shopping – for those who are saying ‘hey that’s not fair’ – think about it for a minute… if the volunteers weren’t there running the sale there would be no sale, plus if the volunteers didn’t shop before the sale itself then they wouldn’t be able to shop at all (or would be trying to shop instead of running the tills and keeping the sale tidy and organised meaning even bigger queues and the items all ending up in a muddle)
  4. If you are someone with a fitbit type step counter its a very easy way to get your steps up – I have no idea how far I walked on Saturday but if you are ‘on the floor’ (as opposed to being on a till or in the ‘back office’) being on your feet for several hours must equate to a fair few steps!
  5. You get to see some very cute small babies (and if you are really lucky you get to have a cuddle!)

So what are you waiting for?

There are jobs for everyone – early morning people can help with set up – later risers staying for clear up, signing in sellers and volunteers, managing the door, tills and back office counting roles are great for those with bumps and small babies or those with mobility issues and there are always jobs for ‘muscles’ moving rails, tables, boxes of stuff! Or maybe you have a van and could help the branch move the rails and other equipment from wherever they are stored to the sale or even before the sale putting up posters, distributing fliers and posting on social media…

The summer Nearly New Season is almost over but keep an eye out for your local branch sales in the autumn and volunteer to help.

Volunteers Week

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This week is Volunteers’ Week and it’s been great to be able to celebrate with my fellow NCT volunteers the nominations for NCT Volunteer Stars (I got nominated!) and see other fantastic soundbites about how being a volunteer has made a difference to them.

A difference for me this year is that in addition to being thanked for being a volunteer I’ve also had the privilege to thank some of the amazing volunteers that give their time and skills to the charity that now employs me. I hope my small efforts (some volunteer bunting and a thank you on a notice board, an email highlighting volunteers week to all our regular users and posts each day on social media) will go some way to make them feel appreciated. I’ve also used the week to try and encourage others to volunteer to help us (working on a new volunteer policy and role descriptions) and will be having a display at an event we are holding next weekend. I hope that for next year we can build on this and have an even bigger celebration of volunteering for us.

I would also like to thank all those people who volunteer to give my children great opportunities in particular all the leaders who run the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts for all the boys and all those involved in running the choir that Middle Littlesheep attends.

Last of all I’d love it if this week could inspire more people to volunteer it doesn’t matter what you do or for whichever organisation you do it every minute that you can give will make a difference.

 

 

Lollipop Moments

At the weekend I went to the NCT Regions Weekend and met up with lots of volunteers from across the UK who are busy supporting all the branch volunteers. During one of the sessions we were shown this video…

It made me think of all the people who have given me lollipops on my journey and all of those who I have hopefully passed on those lollipops to. So here it is for you – create, acknowledge, pay forward and say thank you for those lollipop moments.

Volunteers are Priceless

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I’ve seen this quote a few times on Facebook and I think it really sums up the worth of volunteers.

When I was listening to The Confident Mother conference Sherry divided life into five parts and volunteering can fall into two parts – work (being valued for the work you do) and contribution (your purpose or the contribution you make to the world). I think this reflects more the true value of volunteering as for many it fulfills their ‘work’ – I know that my NCT volunteering filled this gap whilst I wasn’t in paid employment but also it volunteering helps provide people with a contribution to society.

Apparently there are over 21 million people in the UK who volunteer at least once a year and the value of this contribution is estimated as £23.9bn to the UK economy (from http://volunteersweek.org/). I think this is based on how much it would cost to pay people to do the work of volunteers but where would this money come from – to pay for more staff organisations would need to find more funding and employ more fundraisers? Volunteers are truly priceless.