South of the River – Volunteers

Compass-SouthComment logo 2This week has been Volunteers Week.

This is a natural story for us. It’s bang on message, it fits with our mission and was a great opportunity to piggy back on a story that was likely to be picked up regional and national media.

We regularly write up local projects that are run by volunteers. We celebrate their achievements and we try to help them find new volunteers to take their work forward. Hell, we’re a volunteer-run project!

So why haven’t we milked this for all it’s worth? Well actually it’s been a very busy week here at South Leeds Towers.

As well as getting the newspaper laid out – and yes I do know there’s only one ‘d’ in tragedy (p5) – getting it to the printers and then distributed to all our pick up points … many of us on the paper are also involved in putting on Beeston Festival, which I hope you know takes place tomorrow (6 June 2015).

As a result we have missed one or two news opportunities. Including Volunteers Week. The trouble is we didn’t get the email about this special week. We had less time to scour the interweb to find the story because we were too busy volunteering on other projects.

But I’m not complaining. Volunteering is a very rewarding process. It gives you a chance to do something you might not get to do – like the Yorkshire Bank staff helping at Holy Spirit and in Cross Flatts Park. It might be cooking meals for vulnerable people or playing games with young people.

It boosts self esteem. It’s not about being big headed or blowing your own trumpet. If you not working or in a dead end job, having a role that is valued by others can be, well, invaluable.

Another thing about volunteering is you get to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. I met a botanist from Cameroon this week whilst delivering papers. Serge is working at Leeds University writing up his fieldwork in Cameroon, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC or Big Congo as Serge calls it). He’s studying the trees of the Congo basin to better understand the rain forests capacity to capture carbon.

This is obviously very important knowledge to have as the world combats climate change. What was fascinating to hear was how little we know about forest. There are few roads in Congo, people travel by dodgy Russian aircraft or up river by boat. And Big Congo is big. The DRC is bigger than western Europe. There are countless species of trees and plants that haven’t been identified and named by science, let alone studied.

And all this whilst driving up Middleton Ring road in a car full of newspapers.

Sorry, I have to stop now. I’ve just had a call from the hire company. I have to go and accept a delivery of equipment for tomorrow.

Anyway, I think you get the message – go and volunteer your service and if you see someone volunteering their service, show your appreciation and thank them.

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.