With Volunteering Week in full swing, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for communities Mark Gray celebrates our county's caring culture and runs through the many ways people can get involved

WITH one voluntary organisation now operating in this county for every 289 people – significantly above the national average – volunteering in Oxfordshire is clearly thriving.

Now it’s time to say thank you to the people who roll up their sleeves and give their time for their community.

There are an estimated 4,500 voluntary and community organisations in the county and 2,301 registered organisations: that represents about two per cent of the national figure of active registered voluntary organisations.

Volunteering Week takes place between June 1 and 7 every year, and this year a special celebration event for the county council’s own volunteers is set to take place tomorrow at Diamond Light Source, Harwell Science & Innovation Campus, from 3.15pm to 5.30pm to officially pass on gratitude and express admiration for the thriving community spirit and selflessness of Oxfordshire people.

Volunteering is clearly something that is in the genes of Oxfordshire people.

It reflects well on our county and shows a thriving and healthy culture.

There’s always been a big debate about what should be provided by the state, by the private sector and by the voluntary sector, but regardless of that discussion, what is clear is that the people of Oxfordshire are willing and ready to work hard for their local community and always have been.

The county council funds Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action, who work closely with Community First Oxfordshire (previously known as the Rural Communities Council), Oxfordshire Youth Volunteer Link Up and Volunteer Connect to make sure voluntary and community groups have access to support and information.

OCVA puts organisations together to help each other and matches people wanting to do something meaningful with their free time to opportunities available in organisations right across Oxfordshire in urban and rural communities, whether it’s a one-off or something longer-term.

There are a number of other major representatives within the voluntary sector locally, such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK and Oxfordshire MIND.

There are also a multitude of smaller, local organisations, although some of these are equally active and important in the county.

Oxfordshire also hosts some national charities headquarters, such as Oxfam.

Oxfordshire County Council has approximately 3,000 volunteers helping deliver services including in libraries and daytime support facilities.

Volunteering is clearly something that goes to the very core of who we are in Oxfordshire and we should definitely be proud of it and sing it from the rooftops.

Individually and collectively it is something that reflects incredibly well on us as a county. It’s a part of who we are.

Volunteering Week is not the time to discuss the rights and wrongs of what volunteers should and should not do.

It is a time to say ‘thank you’ to volunteers across Oxfordshire who do an amazing job in their communities and make a difference in their communities every day.

The message should go out loud and clear – thank you to Oxfordshire’s volunteers, you do us proud.

Miriam Chappell from the OCVA recently put it this way: “Volunteering is of great benefit to our communities, but what often goes unsaid is the benefit it also has for the individual.

“Volunteering can be a way to make friends, do something different, and add a fresh routine to your life.

“Volunteering offers you the chance to gain new skills – whether you’re hoping to improve your confidence, develop an interest, or even change career.

“The wellbeing benefits of volunteering, from increased self-esteem to improved social connections, cannot be overstated.”

Do you want to learn more about volunteering in Oxfordshire? There’s a dedicated website to help you do just that.

You can find out more at oxonvolunteers.org