Jenny Gilruth MSP spent an afternoon getting messy with children at Home-Start Glenrothes on Tuesday as part of an initiative by Fife Voluntary Action to get notable figures in Fife involved in volunteering as role models for their communities.
Gilruth – who is also the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills - rolled up her sleeves and got stuck in with playtime at the charity, which supports families with young children through challenging times. The former teacher wasn’t afraid to get messy in front of the cameras either, throwing herself wholeheartedly into the mucky activity.
The visit was part of Volunteers’ Week, a national awareness week celebrating volunteers and recognising the importance of volunteering to society. While there, Gilruth shared some of her own experiences of volunteering as a child – starting as a sixth year at school, helping out with the first years, and then taking part in various activities while at university.
“It makes such a difference to the work that you do. You get so much from it. It’s just so important.
She also recounted her own time as a teacher, witnessing the impact that volunteering had on the pupils in her charge and describing how her lessons about how we look after the elderly in society led many to volunteer in nursing homes or even just help more with elderly grandparents. The experience stood them in good stead.
“It would definitely help with their applications when they were going on to university because universities recognise them for giving something back.”
Lindsey Brown, Project Co-Ordinator at Home-Start Glenrothes, noted that people can struggle to commit to volunteering- sometimes starting the process, then withdrawing. That isn’t an issue, she says:
“People go through the preparation course, and halfway through they think ‘Oh, this is not for me’. And that’s fine.”
But once a volunteer is trained and placed with local families, they become a hugely important part of the family’s life.
“Once they build a relationship, it becomes a really, really valuable relationship”.
Charlotte, one of the attendees at Monday’s session agrees, and was clear on the value she got from the charity:
“It helped me realise that I wasn’t alone. There’s no other person in my life that would sit and listen to me for thirty minutes, just moan and moan and moan. It’s a bit of a release”.
Gilruth’s busy schedule at Holyrood makes it difficult to volunteer on a regular basis, but she feels she gets huge value from volunteering her time as and when she can:
“Sporadic volunteering for people who’ve got busy jobs is important because it gives you a better understanding of the impact of the role of volunteers in the local area”.
If you’re looking for help to find an opportunity that you can fit around a busy schedule and need a bit of guidance, contact FVA at [email protected] and our Volunteering Development team will help you find the right role for you.