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Awards 2024
Dianne JC

Who wants to change the world?

Volunteering has been a huge part of my life and career & this week is volunteering week so what else could this blog be about?

From somehow becoming the Chair of my children’s playgroup committee in the early 1990’s to escorting celebrity guests and making videos for the Whitehaven Maritime Festivals; from sitting as a board or steering group member on BECBC, Copeland Community Fund, Centre for Leadership Performance and Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership to reading for half an hour online with a local primary school pupil my volunteering has brought both my life and my career diverse opportunities and skills.

My first experience of volunteering came when I was faced with the stark fact that the plan I’d made to attend University had been well and truly kiboshed by failing my A-levels. While searching for a job I delivered library books to people who were housebound and also volunteered for our local branch of MIND. While a key driver was adding to my CV as part of my jobsearch both these activities brought people into my life I wouldn’t have otherwise met and expanded my understanding that the world for me is different to the world for others, something as humans we sometimes forget.

Becoming Chair of my children’s playgroup brought me my first experience of leadership & I had a lot to learn! When I later became Chair of their school as it was undergoing a merger to become a primary I was able to lean on that prior experience at a point when clear communication and the ability to understand how the merger was affecting people emotionally could not have been more important. I still use those key lessons in my role today.

My volunteering has been very diverse but who would have known that the man I married would become the route to the volunteering opportunity which took the greatest time investment in my volunteer career and delivered experiences you literally couldn’t buy? From 1999 to 2015 my husband led a team that delivered community events in our hometown of Whitehaven. At it’s peak the Whitehaven Festivals brought 380,000 people in one weekend to a town with a population of 24000 people. If you didn’t experience them I’m sure you can imagine the buzz. It was an amazing experience escorting and interviewing celebrities and, as you can see from the photo above, we often had a good laugh in the midst of very hard work delivering an event that size. You can see some of the videos here including me interviewing some of the celebrities at the Home and Garden Show in 2015. While I’d made a couple of videos before this weekend of doing a number back to back made me much more comfortable with doing video marketing & even now I’m more comfortable doing a video than having a photo taken!

All this experience strengthened my communication and marketing skills, something I believe is vital for anyone in a leadership position but I knew I still didn’t have the level of strategic thinking I needed and that’s when I started to sit on boards across various organisations. I know many of our third sector organisations in Cumbria desperately need board volunteers and I’d highly recommend doing this to anyone, perhaps most especially to those who don’t think board members look like them. Cumbria CVS can signpost you to open opportunities and help you prep for the role but one thing you do need to think about is what you care about because board members should care about the organisation and cause they’re supporting.

All this experience, and more that I haven’t gone into, brought me the skills and experience I needed for the role of CEO at BECBC, a job I love and which brings me great joy. So have I given up on the volunteering? Of course not. I did have to find something that would fit around the role and personal circumstances at the moment so once a week I support a local primary school youngster with reading online via the Chapter One platform.

Volunteering has brought so much to my life and, to me, is something we can all do to leave a personal legacy. Whether it’s an organisation that becomes more sustainable because of your contribution, a pupil who’s a more confident reader and goes on to a more successful career or an area that believes in itself more who knows what you could achieve?

If you’re looking for volunteering opportunities in Cumbria I’d highly recommend signing up for Together for Good which can help match you against local opportunities.

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