Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Take your big society and leave. (please)

Some of you may be aware that I'm spending six weeks next summer in a country with the greatest name in the world (India, obviously...). As part of this I have spent near enough every Friday night in Hardenhuish School hall, which for the record is absolutely freezing at night, helping out with climbing sessions, as well as trying out the wall myself if I get a spare minute. On top of this I have spent that last six years helping out at local Rainbow units, read this as getting covered in glitter by girls aged five to seven. Now, I'm no Mother Theresa, but that's two nights a week of voluntary work, and the amount of young people I've had the privilege of meeting through GirlGuiding shows that I'm not the only person doing so. We're coming to the end of our centenary year, of a voluntary movement where helping in the community plays a big role and has been doing so since 1910, independent from politics.

So you know, when I see and hear about this 'big society' I can't help but wish the Tories could have been a bit more imaginative. I'm no expert in politics, but I can't help but agree with the General Secretary of UNISON (Dave Prentis) "The Government is simply washing its hands of providing decent public services and using volunteers as a cut-price alternative". I mean, I love being involved in Guiding, some of the greatest experiences I have had through it to be honest usually involved some degree of community service. It does make me feel like, dare I use the term, part of some sort of 'Big Society', even when I was seven and murdering Christmas carols in the old people's home in town with the rest of my pack I got the same feeling of satisfaction as when I was helping clear a lakeside in Germany. But I think if I was doing this because there was no one else, or because I had to? Then the magic would be lost. I wouldn't enjoy it half as much and I'd be so cross at Cameron for taking that away from me! 

Seriously, I do think everyone should consider voluntary work as something to throw into their lives, and I'm sure anyone who has will agree, it's worth far more emotionally than any amount of UCAS related Brownie points (excuse the pun!).  So everyone, do something unpaid, but do it for yourself, do it for the community, don't do it so that the country doesn't have to pay someone else to do it!

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