In the famous words of Elizabeth Andrew, “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently with several of my children’s activities and clubs winding up for the year.
Yesterday saw the end of year presentation at my seven year old son’s rugby club. Standing in a room packed full of under 7s and under 8s bursting with excitement and pride at getting a trophy for their efforts really brought it home just how many activities for children wouldn’t be able to go ahead were it not for those who volunteer their time.
As well as the rugby, my son plays football for a local club (and indeed his five-year-old brother will soon be joining both). Both teams are run by volunteers recruited from the parents of the children on the team. Several of the dads coach my son’s teams, including my own husband on the under 7s rugby, and I know there are mums who coach in other age groups too. All of them give up their weekend mornings (and as they get older, one evening a week too) to ensure the children get to train and play in games and tournaments. They plan sessions to keep the kids engaged and interested. They teach them the skills of the game in fun and age-appropriate ways. They deal with tears from kids who fall over or who don’t get the ball. They praise them when they do well. They encourage them when things aren’t going so well. They teach them to be modest in victory and gracious in defeat. They forgo other events and activities to ensure they are there as often as they can be.
Then there are the mums who coordinate both my son’s teams. They ensure kids are registered correctly and that subs are collected (due to the efforts of volunteers these are kept to a very minimal amount which covers registration and costs). They ensure kit is ordered and given out. They text and email and update Facebook groups. They stand on the sidelines every weekend chatting to parents, answering questions, and probably not watching much of what their own child is doing. The teams wouldn’t operate without them.
My seven-year-old son also attends Beavers while his nine-year-old sister is a Brownie (and former Rainbow). The Scouting and Guiding movements wouldn’t be able to exist without the efforts of hundreds of thousands of volunteers running units up and down the country. Not only do these men and women turn up every week to run the weekday evening sessions, planning a balance of activities so that the children can earn interest badges and learn new skills and information, they often give up their weekends too to take them on overnight camps or other activity days, giving them a taste of independence away from their families.
As often as we can, we attend Cardiff Junior Parkrun, a free weekly timed 2K family run at Llandaff Fields. This can see as many as 200 children in attendance some weeks – and there’s no way it could go ahead if it wasn’t for the volunteers who marshal the course. They give the children a fun warm up before the run; they are stood every few metres along the route cheering the kids (and accompanying grown ups!) on; they are there at the end scanning bar codes to ensure every child gets their official time sent to them. I’m hoping to do my first volunteer stint with them soon.
My children are all in school now, but I was so thankful in their pre-school days for a toddler group held in a local church hall. Like so many groups up and down the country this was again run by volunteers. I didn’t know anyone when I went along for the first time, feeling frazzled and knackered, but the kindly volunteers made me feel so welcome. They held my baby when my toddler needed the toilet, or entertained my older children if the baby needed feeding. They got there early to set up the toys and craft activities. They served teas and coffees, biscuits and cakes they had baked themselves. They lead us in sing-songs and never forgot a child’s birthday. They asked how I was feeling and listened when I replied.
None of these people are doing any of the above because they are being paid to do it. They are doing it because they want to be there.
And I can’t thank you enough.
We – I’m sure other parents won’t mind be speaking on their behalf – can’t thank you enough.
Many of us have grown into the adults we are today because of volunteers like you running the groups we attended as children, and we know first hand we wouldn’t be the people we are today without people like you.
Thank you for offering your time and commitment to our children.
Thank you for your patience and your kindness in dealing with groups of children who aren’t your own and who you aren’t being paid to look after.
Thank you for giving our children the opportunity to learn new skills, to discover new things, to make new friends, to have adventures they might otherwise never have had.
Thank you for giving up your evenings when you’re probably exhausted from a day at work and would perhaps like to sink onto the sofa and relax.
Thank you for giving up your weekends, forgoing your lie-ins or days out with your own family, to give such amazing opportunities to our children.
Thank you for helping our children to develop confidence, to believe in themselves, to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Thank you for showing them how to work as a team and to problem solve away from the classroom and family life.
Thank you for helping them gain independence.
Thank you for inspiring and empowering them.
And for being a role model.
Thank you for being part of the ‘village’ raising our children.
You don’t have any more hours in the day than the rest of us. Many of you work, have your own children, and other commitments and responsibilities. Yet you care enough about the children in your community to want to find the time. You care enough about the children in your community to know what an amazing impact this will have on their lives. You care enough to get involved, rather than making excuses about being too busy or too tired or not having the time.
Lots of you probably find yourself up late at night organising activities and tackling other admin tasks. You might use your lunch hour from work or your baby’s nap time to reply to parents’ messages or to organise events. You might miss things you really want to do because of the commitment you’ve made to our children.
No, you don’t necessarily have the time.
But you certainly have the heart.
And because you have the heart, our children’s lives are enriched in so many ways.
Thank you doesn’t quite seem enough. But thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Do send on to a volunteer who runs your child’s activities, or tag them on the post on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page or Cardiff Mummy Says on Twitter.