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How practical work days can benefit you

Logo: Canal & River Trust

Canal & River Trust explain the advantages of volunteering

By Leon Thomas

Litter picking by boat, Bumble  Hole on the Dudley Canal  (Canal & River Trust)
Litter picking by boat, Bumble Hole on the Dudley Canal (Canal & River Trust)

12.7 million people volunteer in England once a month and 19.2 million once a year[1]. Practical working days can offer a wide variety of benefits, from developing new skills and abilities to an improved quality of life.

The reasons behind volunteering vary from person to person, while a large number of volunteers want to make a difference in their local communities, others simply choose to join volunteer groups in order to gain or build on a specific skillset. All of them however, benefit from the social aspect of volunteering and the ability to meet new and like-minded people.

For those who volunteer to genuinely make a difference in their community, on a frequent basis they are able to sit back and take glory out of all their hard-work paying off.Iain Jack a volunteer for the Canal & River Trust said: “For me it is a win-win-win-win situation. I get to work outdoors in some wonderful countryside after years spent mainly indoors at the office or in the factory.”

A study published in 2009[2] showed that volunteering can actually be better for a person’s health – with reports showing that those who volunteer are more likely to have a better quality of life, better social integration and support and increased self-esteem and confidence.

Towpath repairs on the Brynich aqueduct on the  Monmouth & Brecon Canal (Canal & River Trust)
Towpath repairs on the Brynich aqueduct on the Monmouth & Brecon Canal (Canal & River Trust)

“Towpath Taskforce work days help to keep me physically fit in my advancing years; I get to hang out with like-minded people from all walks of life (the banter alone is worth it). I am also learning all sorts of new skills I have previously admired from afar, for example boat handling, hedge laying and lime mortar work,” continued Iain.

One of the largest components of volunteering is being in a position to not only learn but to also share skills; this is something that organisations are more than keen to encourage when investing in volunteer workers, Tom Freeland, national volunteer co-ordinator at the Canal & River Trust said: “The work achieved is a fundamental part of the day to day delivery for most charities and land-managing organisations, and is largely built on the efforts of volunteers.

Maintaining the shrub beds at the National Waterway  Museum, Ellesmere Port (Canal & River Trust)
Maintaining the shrub beds at the National Waterway Museum, Ellesmere Port (Canal & River Trust)

“I’ve been involved in conservation work days for a range of organisations over many years, and I’ve always found them to be a joy: a day out on a beautiful (or maybe just interesting) site, working with like-minded people for a shared goal, and the satisfaction of a job well done at the end of the day. 

“Practical work parties helped save & restore many canals, and now Towpath Taskforce volunteers are the heart of our efforts to keep the waterways a special place for everyone to enjoy, now and into the future.”

Whether it be for personal reasons, social development or general curiosity, volunteers are the unsung heroes of many organisations and the backbone to a lot of British countryside communities.

For further information on volunteering for the Canal & River Trust visit https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteer and for further information about the health benefits of volunteering visit http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/volunteering/Pages/Whyvolunteer.aspx

[1] According to the Community Life Survey, Cabinet Office (2014)

[2] The Gerontologist, Volume 49, Issue 1 p. 91–102, (2009)

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with RSPB on 18 September 2017