A PTA member walks up to you in the crowded playground, asking you to volunteer to sell cakes after school. What do you do? You know that icky sick bubble that wells up inside, forcing your eyes to look around frantically searching for an escape route? Anything, anyone to distract this lovely lady from asking you to sell cakes. You’d rather be standing on the opposite side of the metal encased table on rickety legs with a screaming throng of children surrounding you, pushing forward in the hope of choosing their favourite little cupcake before it disappears. Well that’s how i think and I have been there!
I’m not a big fan of being approached to volunteer for something. My insides turn out and I silently panic, thinking up the worst case scenarios. I will be the one that’s sets fire to the Christmas tree displayed in the school hall. Or, I will be the one that gives out the wrong change and charges extra on cups of tea. Trivial matters yes, but awfully embarrassing all the same.
Now, give me a challenge anytime. Tell me I’m not allowed or have restricted access and I want in! Says a lot about my personality, I know, but I’m being honest. I have volunteered for many different causes over the years, by choice and not force. Some are well known causes and others were for more personal reasons. The library at my children’s school for example. That was purely for my own enjoyment. Organising books, flicking through pages that might not have been turned for years and giving them a new lease of life featuring them made me happy. Volunteering to entertain children suffering from cancer. Again, a personal choice with the help of a doctor friend, but rewarding beyond anything else I’ve done since.
Some people find it easy to say, “okay, I’ll do it” and get on with the job at hand. For me, it’s a matter of fighting down the nerves; thinking, how public is this gig and hoping I can hide in the background doing the grunt work rather than serving the general public! Ever wonder what type of volunteer you are?
Joining SEBEV, our local search and rescue organisation was a mixture of personal and cause. SEBEV stood for South East Berkshire Emergency Volunteers. Since I left (to have more and more babies) their name has changed to Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue. The ethos remains the same though …to assist in finding high risk and vulnerable members of the community such as Dementia/Alzheimer sufferers, children, suicidals or anyone who may be at risk. Apart from search and rescue, they serve the community in other various ways.
Over the years, they have assisted during major floods and emergencies, charity events and supporting inter-school events by providing first aid. With incredible grit and unfailing sacrifice, they offer their time and energy to help others when the emergency services are far too stretched to reach out a helping hand. They are not paid to do this work, but do it because they feel the need to serve the community. I was proud to be a member and miss being a part of a great team.
I feel the need to share some of the fun memories of training with the team. There is a special room down in the bunker where SEBEV is based called the rat run. It is a room filled with movable floors that is used to train members on how to search damaged buildings for mispers and for team building exercises in the dark! Scouts love visiting the bunker and the highlight of the night is putting on hard hats, grabbing a torch and leading your team through the tunnels to find the mannequin hidden in one of the rooms and extracting the mannequin without losing team mates. Teamwork!
I have to add the incredibly thrilling late night walks through dense forest searching for a misper (missing person). I had to bite down my fear of spiders and focus on the search. One fine summer’s evening, something heavy and fast footed ran across my neck. My squeal of terror echoed through the night and I slapped my hand across the back of my neck, feeling an awful crunch and squelch! After examining the contents of said hand with my torch, all that remained were dark hairy legs and squished bits. My search partner matched my squeal with one of his own when he saw this and a shudder that didn’t make me feel any better! Of course, we continued with our search, hairs tingling with each passing branch and tickle wet leaves.
Back to my point of volunteering…be it small or big, every time we give a little of ourselves, the rewards for others are great. Whether it’s avoiding the cake sales and preferring to hop into the kitchens to tidy up after an event, all help is appreciated. I hope I get inspired to get off my butt and choose another cause soon. Maybe the fire brigade this time!
Picture taken from
SEBEV official website