Fancy making a New Year’s resolution which will make a difference to someone else’s life, as well as your own? Then donate some of your time to helping others, say three women who are volunteers...
People volunteer for love. And the Moyes family feel they’ve had it back in abundance since mother and son became police puppy trainers.
Helen and her youngest son, 16-year-old Daniel, are volunteers with the South Yorkshire Police puppy training programme.
They are currently caring for an 18-week-old German Shepherd pup they have named Esther.
She came to them at seven weeks, just after the departure of Cleo, who after a year at the Moyes family home in Greystones has gone to work for the prison service.
During their time with families, pups are given love and attention and encouraged to socialise with people and other animals.
“Trainers have found a family environment makes the dogs much more sociable and easy to handle,” says Helen. “That makes Daniel and I feel we are doing a really worthwhile job, and the added bonus is we’re getting loads of love back in return.”
She says too that the shared responsibility has brought her and Daniel closer.
“It’s a shared interest and we’re both on the same learning curve,” she says.
“We not only have to house-train and socialise the pups, we have to take them for monthly obedience, search and tracking training.”
The family had long wished they could own a dog. “But I was concerned about being tied, especially as the children are grown up. Daniel will go to university in less than two years,” she says. “I have a busy life; I am a self-employed home economics teacher with and run my own home coaching business.
“Committing to a puppy for up to a year is time-consuming, but not as much as a dog for life. The trainers provide cover when we need it, as well as providing food and paying for any vet’s bills. And I’ve practised what I preach: home coaching is about empowering you to choose how you want your home life to be and then encouraging the skills you need to achieve it.”
Esther will eventually leave to go and live with a police or prison dog handler and complete its formal training. There will be tears. “It’s hard to give them back” says Daniel “But you know they are going on to do an important job and that makes it much easier.”
n For information on Home Coaching contact Helen on 0114 2662114. South Yorkshire Police are appealing for families to be police support puppy volunteers. Contact Lorraine White: 0114 2964941.
Rewarding method to utilise spare time
Most women in Joanne Stocks’ shoes would feel they didn’t have a spare minute for themselves, let alone voluntary work.
She’s a mum of two and a carer for her parents. But the Woodthorpe 38-year-old packs in voluntary work for the local youth club, a kids’ soccer team and Sheffield Air cadets.
“I got into volunteering about eight years ago because my partner Mark was training a football team. I figured l had a little spare time in between being a mum to our two sons, who are 11 and 15, and a carer and thought it would be really important to help out in the local community,” she says.
“There are often lots of things that need doing here that rely on voluntary organisations to carry them out. I wanted to do something to help.”
Joanne volunteers for the Woodthorpe Development Trust’s youth group.
Every Friday night, she helps to run the Youth Club tuck shop, which raises the money to pay for club activities from art and craft sessions to video game nights.
“It’s hard work but l love it and l work with some great people. There are five regular volunteers and we often get involved in activities taking place.”
On Saturday mornings she can be found in Richmond Park with her partner, training football-mad kids of eight and over. “I usually provide hot drinks, refreshments and keep the pavilion clean and tidy for the session so I’m kept busy,” she grins.
She’s also a committee member and fund-raiser for Sheffield’s Air Cadets and is always ready to get involved with community events in Woodthorpe.
“I give my time at local fairs and festivals. It does keep me very busy,” she admits. “But I love helping out. I’m sure I’ll be doing this for a long time. Volunteering is in my blood now.”
Joanne would urge anyone to consider volunteering for their local community, even if they can only spare a few hours a month: “Every day, I see the good that volunteers do in our communities,” she says. “We are keeping communities alive and giving kids a good start in life.”
Former teacher’s sweet truth
When former Doncaster deputy head and education director Meryl White retired two years ago, she didn’t put her feet up. An enterprising woman, she piled her plate high.
Meryl is now a successful cookery writer, with a recipe book selling like hot cakes and a weekly blog which is followed by bakery fans all over the world.
She reckons she owes it all to her Bolton on Dearne grandma Lizzie Abson, whose hand-written recipes she inherited and turned into the book Grandma Abson’s Traditional Baking. But clearly, Meryl has an entrepreneurial spirit. That and her 30 years in education made her the perfect volunteer for Young Enterprise, the UK’s leading enterprise education charity which helps children and young people to set up companies and acquire the skills and attitudes to succeed in the world of work.
Meryl started as a local volunteer in 2010, giving around 10 hours of her spare time a month. But she soon found she had become so passionate about helping young people in such a practical way that she took on more and more responsibilities.
“I am now chair of the South Yorkshire Board and last July I became a trustee of the National Board, which added a new dimension to my volunteering. The charity easily takes up a day a week and I love every minute,” says the 61-year-old, who also finds time to be a governor at a local further education college.
“It’s all unpaid work. Giving your time and energy for free to something you believe in does give you a really great feeling.”
During her time in education she had seen a host of children and young people be motivated by the Young Enterprise scheme.
“Every year, young people aged between 4 and 24 years learn by doing simulated business activities. And research has shown that Young Enterprise graduates are twice as likely to start their own businesses and be successful in their careers,” she enthuses.
In November her national role took her to San Francisco: “What an adventure that was - I’d never been there before and I got to meet entrepreneurs from all over the world at the University of California and bring back lots of ideas about mentorship.”
As a national trustee, she is also finding she can help to make a difference on issues close to her heart. She is involved in challenging current government policy to scrap enterprise education and work-related learning from the national curriculum.
“The Government is ignoring a huge amount of evidence of the inspirational and empowering effect that learning by doing and bringing volunteers from business into the classroom can have,” she says.
Meryl believes many retired people would find their lives enhanced by volunteering for a charity they believe in.
“As you move from paid work into a different phase of your life, volunteering gives you the opportunity to go out and give your time and experience to something deserving.”
Board members feel lucky to have her - particularly as Meryl takes along cakes made to her grandma’s recipes to every meeting.
Young Enterprise need entrepreneurs and business people to work as volunteers. Go to www.young-enterprise.org.uk