As communal charities staged “thank-you” events for their armies of unpaid helpers to mark National Volunteers’ Week, Gordon Brown’s independent champion of volunteers, Baroness Neuberger, observed that Jewish charities “could not survive” without them.
“We see some superb practice in supporting, training, thanking and celebrating volunteers in the Jewish world,” she told the JC.
“Jewish Care is one example where volunteers are thanked and given a real sense of belonging to the organisation. Newer organisations are doing it differently, such as the virtually entirely volunteer-led Limmud, where the volunteers learn so much on the job and are wonderfully supportive to everyone who attends a session.”
Among charities holding parties for volunteers was Norwood, where guests included Hani Baldot, 22, originally from Israel, who received an excellence award for 300 hours of assistance.
Ms Baldot has volunteered as a befriender and told the JC that she enjoyed it immensely. “Over my time here I have got to know so many other volunteers and I now hope to go on and work in the Norwood offices.”
Esther Posner, 79, of Southgate, has assisted Norwood for 10 years and finds the work “very important and rewarding. It is vital that we continue to recruit more volunteers.”
Debra Zender, 45, of Hampstead Garden Suburb, has been volunteering at Jewish Care’s Brenner community centre for just over a year and describes it as “the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. When I signed up I was unsure about whether I had the right experience to do anything like this. But after the first day, I realised that I had made the right decision.”
At international-aid charity World Jewish Relief, even volunteer coordinator Lia Bogod, 45, does the job on a voluntary basis, stressing: “Be it an hour a day, or a week, any time that someone can give up is really worthwhile.”