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4 January 2018

Safe Families: good reasons to volunteer

Mary Ayers Church member
Safe Families - wooden heart

Why would busy people give up time in their busy lives to be with strangers? Why do it, when we have enough to do with our own families, our own preoccupations and our own problems?

We’ve just celebrated Christmas, and as the volunteer manager at Safe Families for Children, I think this is the ideal time to look at what it means to be a volunteer. I’m one of three members of Above Bar Church who work with Safe Families, along with Tiff Allcock and Phoebe Prior.

There are many reasons why people volunteer. It is good work experience, it gets you out of the house, it helps you meet people. These are all very good reasons for volunteering, but what is at the heart of volunteering?

We believe that volunteering is about love. Elizabeth Andrew said, “Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they just have the heart”.

Love can change the world, it can change our country, it can change our city and it can change us.

Volunteering gives us a chance to share the lives of others who have had different experiences and different lives.

It allows us to come alongside people who are hurting and in hopeless situations and bring them hope, just by being there as a friend. We don’t need to do amazing, complicated rescue missions, we just need to be there and be understanding and empathetic.

It expands our hearts and our compassion. John Holmes said, “There is no better exercise for the heart, than to reach down and lift someone up”.

It gives us windows on worlds and lives we hardly know exist and certainly don’t really understand. It helps us to be less judgmental and more understanding of people and it allows us to teach our children about love and about the world they live in. Nothing teaches hope, kindness, courage and compassion like helping others.

Safe Families - searching for an inn

That’s what we’ve just been thanking God for at Christmas. Mary and Joseph relied on the kindness of strangers in their time of struggle. They were alone in a strange town, without close family and friends at a time of great stress and worry. They desperately needed help and a stranger helped them by providing a room for them to stay in.

He didn’t really do very much. He just went a little bit further and spent some time, making sure a desperate couple had shelter, and it made all the difference in the world – literally.

We can do the same. Make ourselves available as friends, give some time, offer someone a listening ear and our attention. And we can make all the difference in the world to someone who is struggling.

Safe Families - two children

No two volunteers for Safe Families are alike. They are young, old, married, single, of different faiths and none, working, retired or students. They all have different experiences and skills, but they all share a common mind — they want to help people, they want to care for people and they want to show love.

We have been going for just over a year now in the South Coast and our volunteers have already made such a difference. They have been friends to over 72 families, helped around 200 children and they have hosted children for over 90 nights in total.

Every one of those volunteers have shown love and compassion and understanding to those families, just by being there and helping them work through some of their issues.

No-one can solve all the problems. But we can all make a difference. Helen Keller said, “Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much”.

If you are interested in volunteering, find out more (and an application form) on our website: www.safefamiliesforchildren.com/regions/southcoast

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