Why I Volunteer

I work as a Visitor Experience Assistant at the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle and within this role, I’m dealing with visitors and tourists on a daily basis. I also volunteer at events and would like to share my experience as part of Volunteer Week 2019.

Outside the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.
Outside the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.

Why do I volunteer?

The answer is simple really: it’s good fun, I meet people from all walks of life and I get to take in the ambience of events. Plus I often get to see behind the scenes, and there is also the added bonus of some perks like free tickets. It’s been proven that volunteering is good for you and your mental health, so why wouldn’t I want to do it?

It often surprises people when I say I’m volunteering and I get some funny looks, but I have been volunteering in some form since I was about 16. I started out volunteering as a Brownie leader, followed by about 8 years at an Oxfam Shop (off and on), then I joined Manchester National Trust Volunteers, I travel to their weekends away and I am their program planner too.

Alison on a volunteering weekend in the Lake District with Manchester National Trust Volunteers
Alison on a volunteering weekend in the Lake District with Manchester National Trust Volunteers.

Volunteering with National Museums Scotland

My most recent foray into volunteering happened after a chat with a Team Leader when I decided it was time to see a different side of National Museums Scotland. The first event I volunteered at was a Museum Late event at the National Museum of Scotland, put together by the Learning and Programmes department in November 2017. It was a Jacobites themed event where I was looking after the silent disco, the perfect place for me. I loved it, but I didn’t have much voice left after that event!

Since then I have been a roving volunteer and Volunteer Manager at events, which was an experience. I’d be running around madly making sure my team of volunteers were all okay, exhausting, but great fun and I don’t think I stopped all night.

Silent Disco at Jacobites Late 2017
Silent Disco at Jacobites Late 2017. Image by Chris Scott.

Why volunteer at Airshow?

Volunteering at Scotland’s National Airshow was due to my experience of working at the National Museum of Fight as a Visitor Experience Assistant and loving it.

It’s always very busy in the run-up to the big day! I go along the day before with home-baked goods in tow and do anything I can to help. Last year I was set the task (with a lot of help from North Berwick Cadets) of putting together 350 packed lunches for participants, staff and other volunteers at Airshow. Along with that, I set up Concorde Hangar and Community Craft and Culture Marquee with all the chairs and tables needed to accommodate all the extra attractions. On the day itself, I was looking after the volunteer crew room with a couple of other people, giving out the lunches, radios and Hi-viz vests to all who came. We had to often re-jig radios so all the correct people had them, this was a little stressful at times, but I managed.

Scotland’s National Airshow 2018 – National Museum of Flight – Sat 28 July 2018. Image by Andy Catlin

Being a volunteer means I get to see the action, as well as helping the day go according to plan. It makes me feel important and gain confidence that I can take on new challenges and learn new skills. I will never get my head around boxing table cloths, but volunteering at this event makes me feel part of a family. Will I keep Volunteering? Most definitely.

What’s my inspiration?

My grandparents volunteered for 50 years with the Northumberland National Park, in 2013 they both received MBEs for services to volunteering from the Lord Lieutenant of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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