First days of the UK leg of the EYV Tour

The opening day organized by Community Service Volunteers´ (CSV) was marked by the presence of the famous Campaigner, Broadcaster and founder of the charity childline, Mrs. Esther Rantze. The following days are to be expected to be full of interesting presentations and activities from many different organisations.

The day of the opening ceremony happened to be the eve of the charity CSV´s Make a Difference Day, the UK’s biggest single day of volunteering organized by CSV for the last 16 years. This year the wide range of Make a Difference Day activities across the UKare designed to strengthen communities, improve the environment and tackle isolation and loneliness. Activities include volunteers running ‘blood bikes’ to help save lives in Wiltshire, a project to stop kids swearing in Tyne and Wear, ‘rhododendron bashing’ to protect native plants and a special event allowing terminally ill and disabled children to stroke and play with rescue animals in North Yorkshire. Lucy de Groot, Chief Executive of UK volunteering charity, CSV welcomed the visitors andsaid:  “There is a long heritage of volunteering and social action in the UK from individuals such as Florence Nightingale who pioneered health reform 150 years ago through to the suffragettes who worked tirelessly to improve access to democracy for all women.

Since its start 16 years ago Make a Difference Day has galvanised over 850,000 people to give their time to benefit their local community. Make a Difference Day is part of a global movement of action by local individuals, communities and charities. It is increasingly important for countries across Europeto work together and share best practice to promote volunteering. We must recognise that we are all part of community activism both within Europeand beyond.”

Mr. Jonathan Scheele, Head of the EC representation in the UKfollowed by mentioning that volunteering was well established in the UKand besides the Road Show there are many activities happening throughout the country as part of EYV11. He hoped that the tour would also contribute to recruiting more volunteers. Marina Yannakoudakis, MEP for Londonsaid “It is important for everyone to their bit and to contribute to a bigger, stronger society. The European Year of Volunteering and the CSVMake a Difference Day are great ways of raising awareness of how to volunteer and give back to your community. The Olympics are also inspiring the capital’s young people to come forward and get in on the act. I hope that all these events will motivate more Londoners to offer their services to make their local neighbourhood a better place.”

Mrs. Esther Rantzen closed the speeches by talking about the role that volunteering plays in tackling loneliness. She said: “Loneliness can be an unintended consequence of growing older and it can also strike the younger generation too especially as research states that more and more single young people, under the age of 40, are living alone. Loneliness does not respect age or gender; it’s walking around an empty flat, evenings spent watching television and an empty bed.  Loneliness carries a stigma that makes it very hard for people to admit that they are finding a lonely life difficult to bear. There are so many different causes; divorce, bereavement, disability, bullying, family torn apart geographically or emotionally, a community that has lost its pub or its corner shop or its church. And therefore has no heart. We need to think of more solutions which can bring people together”

Afterwards all speakers themselves participated in the different activities along with the children: drawing a postcard with a message to sick children, decorating gingerbread cookies for people they care about or making bird boxes.

On Saturday, some interesting presentations took place and ended up being an interactive debate between the different representatives of the volunteering organisations. They did benefit a lot from the experiences of the others. The Leeds European Year of Volunteering 2011 and Active Citizens 2011 Bradfordcampaigns were compared and it was already a look back on the year 2011 activities. As the theme of the day was sport, they emphasized on the necessity of volunteers, especially in this field. Just to give an example: Leedsorganized the Leeds Half Marathon with the help of 192 enthusiastic volunteers, which they could not have afford to staff it from resources of the local authority.


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