Our reporter Christine explains how she got involved with volunteering projects around the city and why, as well as explaining how you can go about spotting opportunities too!
After taking redundancy in 2017, I turned my energy to volunteering and have often been referred to as a professional volunteer in the four years since.
I took to volunteering like a duck to water and used it as an opportunity to try out new experiences, to keep myself occupied, to help with the structure of my week and to meet new friends. I have managed to do all of that and more.
I predominantly volunteered in the arts and cultural arenas, such as HOME, Royal Exchange Theatre and festivals such as the Manchester International Festival and Manchester Literature Festivals. I also volunteered to befriend older isolated people with Age UK. I have loved all of my experiences.
However, as of 23 March 2020, it all came to a grinding halt as the first Covid lockdown came into being. I think because of the amount of volunteering I did, friends and family were concerned that I would really struggle as we all had to learn to deal with what to do with our time and keeping safe.
I read a lot, perfected my zoom technique and tried my hand at becoming a culinary genius in the kitchen (I drew the line at banana bread), watched lots of television and tried to get out as much as I could, as I am also an avid walker.
So, imagine my joy in late spring when restrictions began to lift a little and I was contacted to see how I felt about getting back into volunteering.
I will be honest and say that I could not wait, even though I was somewhat apprehensive and wary about getting back out and ‘mingling’ so to speak, again. I was heartened by the considerable care being taken by the organisations I had previously volunteered with to ensure and maintain covid save procedures (masks and distancing), for both volunteers and the public, seeking views and recommendations from their volunteers on how we felt about coming back and what they could do to make us feel comfortable and safe.
Not everyone, however, has felt like me and I have volunteer friends who feel it’s not for them just now and I wholeheartedly support that.
But, I’m back out there again and have just finished 18 glorious days of the Manchester International Festival 2021. Their programme this time around has not been as full as in the past, with lots of online streaming opportunities incorporated into the programme (which is great for people who felt unsure about attending productions but could still experience them).
Thank you to all 3 million who joined in the #MIF21 experience. Not one of our 221 events could have happened without your support! Here are some of our favourite moments from the festival – how many do you recognise? pic.twitter.com/WNL11bf4U3
— Manchester International Festival (@MIFestival) August 5, 2021
There were outdoor events, such as Big Ben Lying Down In Piccadilly Gardens, which some of you may have seen in passing. Sea Change, the opening event – a dance piece that took over a whole section of Deansgate, described as a human flipbook including 150 local Manchester residents – now that was crazy.. with puffs of multi-coloured chalk kicked up by the dancers into the air as they performed and so much more!
More than 1,500 residents across Greater Manchester participated in over 10 events in #MIF21, including featuring in Portrait of Black Britain, dancing for Sea Change, writing love letters for I Love You Too, and selecting books used to build Big Ben Lying Down. pic.twitter.com/0rMoyWwbzL
— Manchester International Festival (@MIFestival) July 21, 2021
I am hopeful that I will be able to continue to volunteer, that opportunities will continue to open up although ever mindful of the precarious nature of the times we are in. If any of you are thinking about getting back into volunteering and or want to start, one of the organisations I’ve mentioned is HOME – a centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film in Manchester, who are about to open up for new volunteers, check out the link – Volunteering – HOME (homemcr.org). You never know, you might end up on the same shift as me!
You can also check out a wide range of opportunities courtesy of the Manchester Volunteering centre which updates project details frequently.