Edinburgh Leisure needs volunteers to step up – Jack Martin

The benefits of volunteering are endless. From meeting new people and building your confidence to trying new things and simply having fun, dedicating time to volunteering can make a real difference to your own life as well as the people you are helping.

Whoever you are, whatever you’re interested in and however much or little time you have to give, there’s a volunteer role out there that’s ­perfect for you and finding it might just be one of the best things you ever do!

Here my top tips for finding the right volunteer role for you.

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Choose a role that suits your lifestyle. Make sure the day, time and location that suit you. If you’re trekking across town or rushing to get there after a long day at work, it’ll start to become too much like a chore.

Choose a role that you are genuinely interested in. Do you crave more time outside in the fresh air? Do you enjoy unwinding in a yoga class after a stressful day? Spend time thinking about what you’re passionate about – that way you’re more likely to enjoy yourself and want to stick at it.

Choose a role that suits your goals.Volunteering can give you the opportunity to gain skills and experience in a new area. Could it help you to secure that place at university or land that dream job?

At Edinburgh Leisure, our ­wonderful volunteers play a vital role in supporting people affected by health conditions, disabilities, poverty and inequalities in our Active ­Communities programme. Last year, 370 ­volunteers gave a staggering 12,000 hours of their time to give people and communities the support they need to be active. They make an enormous difference to people’s lives and many of our projects couldn’t exist without them.

The wide range of volunteer opportunities we offer means that there really is something for everyone. If you love being outside, you could accompany someone with dementia round one of our beautiful golf courses. If you’re a keen gardener, you could muck in at our Ageing Well ­gardening group’s allotment in Leith. If you want to keep fit whilst exploring new parts of the city, you could lead one of our health walks.

Retired teacher Katherine was referred to our Steady Steps falls ­prevention programme by her physiotherapist back in 2017. Although she was fit and had only recently stopped working, she had osteoporosis and had experienced several falls. The class helped improve her strength and balance so when her 16-week programme ended, she decided to train as a volunteer to support people in a similar position. Now she helps at the Friday class, welcoming ­participants and giving them extra support without disrupting the class or ­drawing attention to them.

She said: “While some participants lead very rich lives, others have lost their confidence and have become socially isolated as a result of their fear of falling. It’s wonderful to see them out, enjoying themselves and making social connections as well as improving their balance and mobility. It has been interesting experiencing Steady Steps from both sides. My understanding of the challenges ­participants face and my first-hand experience of being a programme participant make it easier for us to relate to each other.”

Student Cara recently volunteered as a buddy on our Movement for Memories project, which ­supports people living with dementia to remain active. Her role involved accompanying participants to activities that they used to enjoy independently, such as going to the gym or playing a round of golf, but now need extra support to do.

She said: “I’m interested in working with people with dementia. Volunteering with Movement for Memories was a great opportunity to gain experience and develop my skills. Volunteering was also very rewarding. I accompanied my buddies to walking groups, golf, gym sessions and the occasional exercise class.

“I built a bond with them and seeing the progress they made filled me with a great sense of achievement.”

If you love being active, enjoy working with others or have a passion for sport, then why not consider volunteering with Edinburgh Leisure’s Active Communities programme?

You could make a tremendous ­difference, not just to the lives of the people and communities we support but to your own life too! If you would like further information on volunteering with Edinburgh ­Leisure, please contact [email protected] or 0131 4582100.

Jack Martin is a community ­development officer with Edinburgh Leisure.