CHARITIES last night urged as many of us as possible to get involved and lend a hand.
It is Volunteer Week, and across the region there are dozens of opportunities to roll up your sleeves and give something back.
The Big Lottery Fund has drawn up a nationwide map of opportunities and said the region is one of the busiest in the UK for volunteering needs.
Opportunities range from driving, to helping in a cafe, to providing a listening ear – there’s something for everyone.
Andy Griffin from Alnwick, Northumberland, is a retired deputy head of a special school.
He became a volunteer for Action on Hearing Loss following his own experience of hearing difficulties.
“I was working on literacy with my primary school classes and it became clear I couldn’t hear them when they were doing their reading practice with me,” he said.
“My family have had deafness problems throughout the generations. My mother was profoundly deaf in old age. It’s inherited and age related.”
Mr Griffin didn’t set out to volunteer. He wanted to find a lip-reading class, having read about the difference the skill can make to people who suffer hearing loss.
But when he discovered there were none on offer, he worked with MPs Sir Alan Beith and Ian Lavery to develop services.
Mr Griffin added: “No matter what your level of skill, there’ll always be a task you can do that will help someone.”
One of the charities which needs help is Age UK North Tyneside, which provides services to improve life for older people.
Sandra Gray, director of health and well-being at Age UK North Tyneside said: “Volunteers make a huge difference and success to our projects. We wouldn’t be able to help the amount of people that we do without their support.
“Our volunteers find the roles rewarding, varied and interesting and get an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with others.”
Also on the map is Lottery-funded mental health charity, Chester-le-Street and Durham City Mind, which supports some of their service users into volunteering positions.
Chief executive Helen McCaughey explained: “For people who experience the most common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Volunteering is something that can help people add some routine to their life, learn something new or remind them what they have to offer.”