I worked as an Active Schools Coordinator for 9 years. The bread a butter of that role was to recruit and support a network of volunteers who delivered extra curricular sports activities to school aged children for free. It wasn’t easy. Many people run a mile when you mention volunteering; they are worried that they will end up giving up endless hours of their time with no return. Other people are just too busy and can’t find the time. However, very occasionally you do find someone who will say yes I have some time and would like to give that a go.
I started volunteering on a regular basis about 9 years ago with the Crieff High School Mountain Bike Club. A colleague and I would lead a group of pupils around the paths and tracks of Crieff for an hour and a half every Wednesday after school. My commitment to the club didn’t need to go beyond that, apart from having a think about what route we could do each week. I stopped volunteering with the club earlier this year.
In September 2016 I helped set up an after school bike club at Comrie Primary, with 3 other parents. The club was open to P4 – 7 pupils, although some were a bit younger than this as all of our kids also joined in. The club ran for the whole school year, including through the winter months, and had a hardcore of 15 children attending. It was brilliant. Comrie has virtually unlimited off road route options to take the kids on…….although at least 75% of these include a big hill. These hills never put the kids off, they just got fitter, it was great. Again, the commitment didn’t really go beyond the hour and a half each week.
At the start of this school year after many requests, we managed to recruit some more volunteers to allow us to open the club up to all P2 – 7 children. The first week of the club we had over 40 children turn up, it was a nightmare, horrendously stressful, we weren’t ready for it at all. We did know to expect that many children, as we had their consent forms, but the reality took us all by surprise. Gone were the days of turning up ten minutes early, having a quick chat about the route and then heading out to have a fun ride with the kids. We were going to have to start planning, and planning properly. 1.5 hrs soon became 3, which I didn’t even think twice about and I am sure the other volunteers don’t either.
In addition I have spent hours and hours, possibly days worth of time writing a funding application for a grant towards volunteer training and bike maintenance equipment for the club.
This has all made me wonder why I volunteer. Why do I give up hours of my time each week to help run a bike club for 40 children? Initially, 9 years ago it was because I wanted to set a good example. If I was asking other people to volunteer, then I felt I should be doing it as well. With Comrie Bike Club both my children go to the club so I do it for them, although it goes much deeper than that. I am a Level 2 Cycling Coach and a Trail Cycle Leader; I really enjoy sharing my knowledge with others, seeing them improve, start to understand their bike and the skills required to ride it. I absolutely love seeing the smile on a child’s face when they succeed in riding over or round an obstacle that they have balked at in the past. There is one particular boy, when cycling up to a ramp or other obstacle he has the most amazing determined face, he attacks it and wins, then the smile of pure delight at having achieved something new is just priceless. I am as delighted as he is at his victory. There are children who come along to the club who wouldn’t have the opportunity at home to experience anything like what they do at bike club. We are making a real difference to these children’s lives. They are part of a team; the older kids watch out for the younger ones and everyone encourages each other. We all feel it and it makes us all feel great like we are part of something special. I have made friends through the club; this has been an added bonus as it was never my original motivation. I also have fun, at least as much fun as the kids. Taking a group of kids out on a bike ride, pushing their limits, having a laugh and a joke with them is a pleasure and one that I look forward to every week. Seeing a huge line of children in hi-viz crossing a field on their bikes is one of the best sights. I love the fact the kids say hello to me when they see me in the playground. At the start of Bike Club each week they come up to me and tell me things, all sorts of stuff, often completely unrelated to biking, but they choose me to share it with. I am proud of the fact that half of the volunteers are women, strong female role models on bikes doing adventurous activities can only be a good thing.
Volunteer gives me so much; I know that it is something I will always do.