Celebrating Volunteer Week 2018

Can you remember the last time you benefitted from a volunteer?

Whether they are running a children’s sports group or maybe acting as stewards on charity fun runs, whatever, we would soon miss them if they weren’t there. They don’t just fulfil needs, they add friendship, joy and inspiration along the way and Volunteer Week (1st -7th June), is a great opportunity to say thank you.

A Volunteer Scotland survey found that almost half of all adults in the Highlands volunteer formally through an organisation or group – almost double the national average. Giving us twice as many reasons to celebrate the great many selfless volunteers working in our communities.

The same survey estimates volunteers are worth around £2 billion to the Scottish Economy each year. A staggering figure but I am sure you agree, it is impossible to put a value on what they do. Especially in the face of ever-tightening UK Government austerity policies which has meant many volunteers had to become a lifeline for others.

Many people suffering because the Tories ham-fisted and poorly thought out Universal Credit rollout have relied on Highland Homeless Trust or Shelter volunteers to offer them refuge and help.

Others are incredibly grateful for the kindness and compassion they find when they need to call on groups such as the Highland Foodbank or Inverness Food Stuffs for help to feed their family.

If parents can’t get by, some children grow up only knowing poverty and heartache, so we should be grateful for MFR Cash for Kids and local Church groups, who do so much good work to brighten their lives and give relief to parents.

Then, there are the many lives saved by dedicated volunteers at Services such as Mikey’s line or the Samaritans. Their friendly face, or understanding voice can become a glimmer of hope to someone at their darkest of times – when all hope seems lost.

Similarly, groups such as Befriender Highland and Community Transport organisations make sure our elderly are not left forgotten or abandoned by our community.

Volunteers, like those at The Highlands Support Refugees ensure we all remember the plight of those fleeing war and do amazing work to ensure the Highlands is doing its bit for those most in need.

Then there are the many wonderful good neighbours, the community Spirit, along with Community Councils, Hall committees, parents and local minor miracle makers.

Across the constituency we have guide groups, scout groups, after-school sports clubs and even an American football team, Highland Wildcats and more. They all add colour, vibrancy and much needed help.

Their work, brings home just how important the Highlands sense of community is. Not narrow minded and insular, but embracing, uplifting and something to cherish and take great pride in.

The politics and policy impact so greatly, and decisions taken elsewhere often have consequences, intended or otherwise, that either inspire people to get involve directly or make them feel they just have to. Whatever the reason they choose, we should be grateful that they choose to get involved.

Some of the most amazing and inspiring people I meet don’t even know that they are either amazing or inspiring. To them, they are just doing something they enjoy or feel they want to pitch in, lend a hand or they’ve simply thought “there’ssomething that needs doing” and I could do that.

I am incredibly proud of the network of kindness in our communities, and it serves as a constant reminder to me that politics has the power to make a real difference. That feeling is stronger, the longer I work with them – and, given ourfigures, most of you reading this.

So to all you volunteers out there, a huge and heartfelt thank you.

Drew Hendry MP