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Don’t give up giving up your time

Time is precious, especially at this time of year in PR land. Christmas shopping, dinner, drinks, family but who can remember the last time they gave up their precious free time for charity, volunteered or took part in unpaid work? In the month that the BBC launched the #1MillionHours campaign and our client The GALAXY Hot Chocolate Fundstarted to donate to charity groups, I realised I knew very little about the importance of these unsung heroes.

So, why are not more of us involved, is this due to time constraints or is there a stigma? The BBC are trying to make it ‘cool’ to volunteer again. Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s #1MillionHours campaign is a year-long volunteering campaign that will see both stations motivating their young listeners to pledge 1 million hours of time to good causes over the next 12 months. #1MillionHours is one of Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s most ambitious social action programmes to date, working with featured charities Age UK, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research UK and Oxfam to highlight volunteering opportunities.

Kristen Stephenson, from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, says people don’t realise there are “fun” roles out there. “Sometimes the perception is that volunteering is getting involved in a regular formal role, say in a charity shop, which may not be appealing. There’s a lot more flexibility than people realise. Young people can take on leadership roles on charity boards and make strategic key decisions.”

I recently visited a community group where the volunteers gave up their time and were truly passionate, modest people of all ages. Through the Galaxy Hot Chocolate Fund, we aim to reach these small community groups and charities across the UK and Ireland by donating cash awards and parties to support them.

The Maybury Centre, Woking is a meeting place for an eclectic mix of people and we helped them enjoy a well-deserved Christmas Party. The difference the community centre makes to the people in the area was evident and completely overwhelming as I had little knowledge of these places existing. Many people in minority groups can end up isolated and vulnerable especially at Christmas and the importance of these groups giving out a hot meal and providing a place to chat meant everything to them.

There are thousands and thousands of community centres, animal rescues, disability groups and even hospices that rely on the selflessness of people and their time. Every year through the GALAXY Hot Chocolate fund we learn that resources are constantly being cut and demand is always going up. £300 donations can mean the difference between being open for the next six months or not.

This time of year highlights the important work being done by volunteer groups and I hope campaigns like #1MillionHours do make an impact on a section in society that more people should be aware of. Our lives are busy and we rarely have time to reflect, after visiting first-hand and observing the good work these organisations can do within the community I would encourage everyone to get involved!

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