Last Saturday, Leeds saw a lot of people with fantastic attitudes take part in ‘Make A Difference Day’. People from all ages, places and backgrounds came together, pitched in and really did make a difference.
With numerous volunteering opportunities and events going on across Leeds, I went along to a few and managed to get involved and speak to some of the volunteers.
First of all, I went across to Cookridge to see the work of OPAL (Older People’s Action in the Locality), a group set up to help the older members of the local community. At the minute the OPAL volunteers are in the process of transforming an old pub, The Bedford Arms, into The Welcome In Community Centre, a local community centre for the elderly. The volunteers were helping tear down the wallpaper of the old pub, in preparation for the major transformation.
After speaking to Sally-Anne, who is the Volunteer Coordinator at OPAL, I learnt about all the incredible work that this organisation do for the elderly in the area. OPAL provide all kinds of support for older people, for example, they have shopping trips, volunteers who go round for a chat and a cuppa, other social activities and so much more.
Many of the volunteers are not even originally from the area as a lot of them are students who have moved from other cities. First time volunteer and music tech student, Keir, is originally from London but says it’s nice to do something proactive for the area after the Fresher’s lifestyle he has been living since he got to Leeds.
I spoke to two members of staff from the SU Volunteering Team who had been volunteering for a few years before eventually gaining full time careers from it. At one point, one of the team had no idea what he was doing with his life after doing “terrible at sixth form”, but after volunteering, he found an area he was interested in and managed to make a career out of it!
Everybody I had spoken to couldn’t emphasise enough the fact that they have met some great people while getting involved with activities like Make A Difference Day. Volunteer Coordinator at the SU, Emily, says how through volunteering she has made loads of new friends, from all different backgrounds.
After tearing down wallpaper at The Welcome In Community Centre, I ventured across to the Ladybird Project on Kirkstall Road. When I popped in, these guys were in the middle of making a set for a touring festival group.
The Ladybird Project, which was founded in 2008, tours around summer festivals, hosting workshops for both adults and kids to get involved with games, arts and watch performances. It’s such a fun project that brings a diversity of people together- I found out the oldest person involved is 60!
They also run a ‘Skills sharer’ each week, where you can learn a different skill each time which can range from candle making to Quidditch!
Again, it was a first time for a few of the people I got speaking to. Emily said “It’s my first time here, I just came along, I’m not artsy at all- I study science!” So if you’re concerned about being rubbish at art- you don’t need any specific skills to come along and get involved!
Freya, one of the girls that runs the Ladybird Project told me how she finds the workshops therapeutic as she studies biology all the time, “it’s nice to do something and see an immediate result!”
This is the place to go if you’re interested in the arts because it’s a great way to make connections for the future. Sophie, a fine art student and member of the backstage society, was buzzed that there was someone from the West Yorkshire Playhouse at the workshop.
Ashleigh, who has been involved with the Ladybird Project for over a year thinks it “doesn’t feel like volunteering”, she told me that it just feels like she’s doing these workshops for herself, although she is helping the community, because she has so much fun. She also reckons it’s a great way for students from other cities to get involved with the local community.
There are so many different types of volunteering opportunities in Leeds, especially with accessible events like Make A Difference Day, so keep looking out for any upcoming events that you could get stuck into!