To some, the name ‘volunteer’ carries a certain stigma – like amateur, do-gooder, unskilled or less than professional. I speak from our own perspective as Friends of Sandall Park (FoSP) and nothing could be further from the truth. Our members are all employed professionals or retired ex-professionals with a wealth of skills and experience, from banking and teaching to law enforcement – yet, strangely, not one is unemployed.
Especially for the young unemployed, volunteering with FoSP presents an opportunity to gain valuable experience that is often lacking in those early CVs. Through the volunteering network there are opportunities to attend free courses on managing both people and finance or even developing computer skills and accessing funding. Yet we still hear people saying there is a lack of opportunities to gain experience for employment.
How can this perceived stigma be eradicated, so that others feel free to take advantage of the opportunities available? I would suggest a starting point may be for authorities to recognise that many volunteers possess experience beyond their own.
In fairness, FoSP work very well with all agencies at grass root level but fail to engage the authorities at a higher level to develop a strategic vision for the development of the park.
As long as volunteers are ‘kept in their place’ the stigma may never be removed.