VCB Blogs

Here you can find Blogs written by, or for Volunteer Centre Borders about the topic of Volunteering.

 Nigel-Sargent-smsa-trusteeKnitting Together Nicely – the 'Stormers' and the 'Shedders'

Written by Nigel Sargent, VCB Policy and Development Officer

I remember a couple of years ago driving through Selkirk one evening and seeing ladies hanging all sorts of knitted things on to lampposts, railings, and other bits of street furniture. It was the 'Souter Stormers', putting on display all the knitting they had been doing in secret for many months beforehand. This 'knitted graffiti' or 'yarn bombing' as it is often called, was a sight to see and one that captured attention and praise from as far away as New Zealand.

I was also there the day that the 'Souter Stormers' visited the 'Galashiels Shedders' - the Men's Shed in Galashiels - to see if the men there could help the ladies with their next top secret project. The plan being hatched was to create a knitted living room of carefully made woolly furniture with plates, rugs, books and hundreds of little knitted knick knacks, all to be put on public display for a month in a pop up shop in the town centre. Could the 'shedders' help the 'stormers' by making the structures that could then be covered in knitting – a fireplace, a dresser, some plates, a bookcase, a table.

Over the last year or so they have all been working away - the 'stormers' crafting their knitted displays and the 'shedders' crafting the wooden frameworks.

I visited the finished product the other day when the pop up shop finally opened its doors to let everyone see the outcome. What an amazing sight to see. An incredible array of knitted goods in the form of the recreated household room with many hundreds of visitors and tourists from far and wide calling in to marvel at the displays.

One thing that has really struck me about all this is the similarity between the 'stormers' and the 'shedders'. For the 'stormers', the 40 or so ladies, it's all about having fun and a laugh, enjoying each other's company, making new friends, having something to do, learning from each other, using their skills and experience, supporting each other and gaining a huge sense of achievement and satisfaction. For the 'shedders' the exact same benefits are evident.

All involved have been doing what they want to do in their own time and with no payment whatsoever.

Positive energy, empowerment and volunteering at its best!

knitters shedders

gordon brown

Show us your Assets by VCB Executive Officer, Gordon Brown

Early this year I read with interest that Channel 5 are going to be reviving 'Blind Date'.

Not just because it brought back memories of the Saturday evenings of my youth spent in the company of Cilla, 'our Graham' and questions such as 'If I was making a cocktail, what ingredient would you be?' but also because some people have referred to volunteer centres as being the dating agency for the voluntary sector.

It really is an apposite analogy. People come to us looking for the perfect volunteering role and we try our best to find them a match made in heaven from our database of opportunities. But unlike online dating agencies we don't rely on complex mathematical algorithms. We value the human touch. So when someone comes to us looking to volunteer, we don't just present them with the 'top ten' of the day.

The first question we always ask is – what do you WANT to do – what are your skills, interests, hobbies? Of course, sometimes people are quite specific and know exactly what they are looking for, other times they have a rough idea but are open to suggestions. And then there are those for whom talking about their own attributes is very difficult.
Scots are notorious for being reluctant to 'blow our own trumpets' – for a fear (perceived or otherwise) of being told we are 'getting above ourselves'. As a result, self-deprecation is a common Scottish trait – (I've tried it but found Im not just very good at it).

I once read an article by Dr Carol Craig, who wrote the book 'The Scots' Crisis of Confidence' in which she noted: 'because of a fear of judgement by our peers, Scots have developed an inherent sense of privacy lest we are ridiculed or criticised.'
Dr Craig concluded that, as Scottish society is far from equal, the "don't get above yourself" mentality only serves to reinforce, rather than challenge, inequality.

I found this interesting because it lies at the heart of what VCB is trying to do when it talks about identifying 'hidden assets'. Everyone has skills, interests or hobbies that define them as a person and brings them happiness/satisfaction/fulfilment; emotions which could be heightened by sharing with others.

However, we first have to encourage people to be introspective AND then to be prepared to admit to their own talents AND then be prepared to at least consider volunteering these in the right environment.

So if you are considering volunteering but not sure what is the right role for you, come along to VCB and show us your assets – who knows you might get a pleasant surprise, surprise.