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    by Keith Anderson, AVA Head of Development

    At AVA we spend a fair bit of time talking to people who have expressed an interest in getting involved but aren’t very sure about what volunteering might be for them and what’s involved. As we offer our guidance, it’s laced with our own experience as we have all been involved and volunteered somewhere.

    There’s an amusing twist in the story of how I got involved in volunteering, starting with a feeling of being hoodwinked which led to a sense of happy achievement. I would never have imagined myself helping out at a local youth club, but on that first Friday evening there I was among 50 youngsters - and at that time I wasn’t really all that fond of youngsters! Being the responsible ‘parent helpers’ that we were, we counted the 50 kids in and made sure that 50 left the building at the end of the evening. What I remember most from that first experience is that all 50 said thank you as they left the building.

    My ‘career’ with the youth club led to promotion and within a few months I found myself accepting the role of Chair and effectively being in charge and looking after everything and everyone. The youth club benefited from having a group of very dedicated committee members who all freely contributed their time and commitment to creating a safe space every Friday evening for the local youngsters to come and socialise and mix with their friends.  Inevitably, with 50 youngsters in one place we had some bumpy moments, but we dealt with them and nothing was ever too serious.

    The feeling of being hoodwinked came because the person who persuaded me to get involved, with dire warnings that without at least one more parent helper the club would have to close and the kids left so disappointed, never did return as a parent helper.

    But I am glad I was hoodwinked the way I was, I never looked for the 50 thank yous at the end of each Friday evening, but they were always there, and they always made a difference.