Hundreds of initiatives took place at the beginning of June to mark another wonderful campaign in the UK, National Volunteers Week.

But why volunteer? What are the advantages of volunteering? Why is it important to encourage people to volunteer? What's the point of doing things for ‘nothing’?

There are so many definitions of volunteering. This ‘selfless act’ of doing ‘stuff for free’ has always fascinated me!

Michal SiewniakMichal Siewniak (Image: Courtesy of Michal Siewniak)

I have tried, since a very young age, to get involved in projects and activities which helped me not only to connect and reach out to other people but also hugely boosted my confidence and skills.

Although some would argue that my opportunities back home, during communism, were rather limited (e.g. no existing NGO/ Third Sector) to volunteer, I was still able to be part of many local projects which benefited the local community.

I remember one particular situation when in late 1990s the Western part of Poland was completely flooded. People lost everything.

As a ‘born activist', I always thought that sitting at home and worrying won’t change anything - so when my church community decided to organise a bus to support those who were in desperate need of help, I was ready to do my small part.

I must admit that devastation was overwhelming. You build your house, you save money to renovate it, you dream of paying it off when you retire and it literally goes overnight.

As a councillor, I have plenty of opportunities to meet countless inspiring individuals and organisations.

Only a few weeks’ ago, I met a truly fantastic group of local musicians, who have been playing in, supporting and running the Welwyn Garden City Brass Band, some involved for over 50 years!

The band supports the local community with its contribution to WGC celebrations and Remembrance Day.

It also contributes to the social pride of WGC by its representation at the National Finals and through its concerts in surrounding areas and in providing a musical outlet for young aspiring brass players.

Without external funding, the Band relies on its members who pay an annual subscription and on playing engagements to finance itself.

Celebrating its 90th year in 2024, the Band reached out to me as it is looking to consolidate the storage of its music library, instruments and equipment into one central location in WGC.

In March, at the Regional Qualifying Contest of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, the Band was placed third in its Section giving it automatic promotion to the Second Section and an invitation to play at the National Finals in Cheltenham in September.

I really think that volunteering should be a cornerstone and foundation of any successful society.

It ought to be always well supported by Central and Local Government. Yes, the appropriate infrastructure is needed and it should be well funded in order for the community and voluntary sector to thrive.

People often say – ‘I am too busy so I can’t really volunteer’. I agree, we all have so many commitments however I always try to challenge this view.

The beauty of volunteering is that you do it when you want and can. You do it when you feel it is right for you, bearing in mind your own circumstances and various priorities.

Every little helps and so volunteering means that you can dedicate an hour to a particular cause which is close to your heart.

But even if we can’t do that, we can always ask our elderly members whether he or she needs a bit of shopping or a lift to the church. Opportunities to make a difference are simply endless.

Volunteering truly works in a magical way! It requires a lot of work and preparation however if properly set up, it is such a fantastic and rewarding journey.

Both individuals who learn new skills and feel empowered and a local group or charity which needs an extra pair of hands can hugely benefit from volunteering.

It helps to boost your confidence, strengthens your CV and opens your horizons! This week, let’s all try to cherish and appreciate thousands of volunteers across the country and let’s keep volunteering, whenever we can!