“Five minutes, five hours or five days” – how we can inspire each other to volunteer

Rob Wilson was appointed as Minister for Civil Society on 27 September 2014. He was elected the Conservative MP for Reading East in 2005. Rob made his name as an entrepreneur, building small businesses. He played a leading role in securing a number of major investments in the Reading East area.

On the fifth day of what has already been a very energetic Volunteers’ Week, it has been fantastic to witness first-hand the outstanding contribution of volunteers across the country who are helping to build a bigger, stronger society.

The week for me has been focused on meeting inspirational volunteers, hearing their stories and learning what motivates them to do such great things. I’ve asked them, as the people on the ground, what I can do to empower them to create stronger, more resilient, more capable communities up and down the country.

Meeting volunteers

I met an incredible group of volunteers when I visited the head office and classrooms of ‘IntoUniversity’ in west London this week. ‘IntoUniversity’ is a charity which works to inspire young people from disadvantaged, inner city backgrounds to get a place at university. Thanks to the mentoring and tutoring of its 1500 young volunteers and part funded by the Cabinet Office, IntoUniversity is bringing higher education within their reach, opening up new opportunities and careers for people who want to work hard and get on in life.

I also hosted my first ever Google+ Hangout with three inspiring winners of the Prime Minister’s ‘Points of Light’ Award for volunteering. Jackie Patton, Ian Northcote and Danny Glavin all shared their remarkable stories with me, and explained how they became active volunteers in their communities.

Ian, who is Point of Light number 52, is a retired Birmingham police officer who uses his talent for singing to help the homeless by busking on the streets of Birmingham. He also devotes thousands of hours collecting socks, hats, gloves, sleeping bags and chocolate from members of the public and businesses to make their life more comfortable. Ian himself was inspired by the selfless actions of a homeless man 18 years ago who helped protect him from a gang of youths, but it is now Ian who inspires others to volunteer with his actions.

Volunteering should feature in all our lives

Their stories and the stories of the volunteers that support them were all proof that whether you can dedicate five minutes, five hours or five days to volunteering, you can make a real difference – and in doing so inspire others to volunteer.

My personal ambition over the next five years is to make social action and volunteering a feature in the life of almost every person in the UK. In the coming weeks I’ll be setting out in more detail our plans for how we’ll help achieve this. Clearly one of the best ways to achieve this is to inspire by example, as the IntoUniversity volunteers and the winners of the Points of Light Award have demonstrated.

As one of the Points of Light winners rightly said to me, lots of people doing a little bit is much better than few people doing a lot. So let’s remember this Volunteers’ Week that while 74% of the population aged over 16 – an astonishing 32m people – already volunteer, we can, through inspiring each other, build a stronger society.

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