Marlene Baker, Local Ambassador at Community Impact Bucks

Name: Marlene Baker

Volunteer role: Local Ambassador at Community Impact Bucks

How long have you been volunteering? I have been a volunteer at Community Impact Bucks (CIB) for three years but have volunteered previously for about 15 years during a career break to care for my young family. Initially I joined CIB as an Expert Volunteer Coordinator and have been in my current role of Local Ambassador for about eight months.

The main purpose of my role as Local Ambassador is to act as CIB’s eyes and ears and to communicate what we do at grass roots level; I am often the first point of contact for voluntary groups in the local area and spread the word on CIB and how it can help. A secondary role is to promote volunteering in general within the community.

The Local Ambassador scheme is new and I assisted with setting up the programme including writing policies, creating templates and role descriptions as well as establishing ways of recording, logging and evaluating activity. I also go out into the community to give presentations to community groups.

Why do you volunteer? After a career in HR and a change to my work commitments, I did not feel ready to retire and started looking for a business-orientated volunteer role which would use my experience. I found out about CIB and its Expert Volunteer Coordinator role through a recommendation from a friend and, after several years within this role, I became a Local Ambassador. This still draws on my HR expertise whilst allowing me to continue with my other commitments and leisure activities.

What attracted you to this role? As Local Ambassador I am asked by the charity to speak to groups across Bucks about its activities, the benefits of volunteering and how to get involved. I like the fact I use a range of my skills – from research to HR and presenting – and that my days are extremely varied as I may be presenting to a community group one day, to local residents in a library the next, to helping a local charity with specific queries.

What are the best bits of volunteering? The current role brings me into contact with a lot of people and it has been a great way to find out more about the community. It has also enabled me to rekindle a few old relationships, giving me an excuse to get in touch with personal and professional contacts. It also leaves me feeling I have made a difference: people seem to be so appreciative of your contribution.

What are the most challenging bits of volunteering? In my current role, I am one of the charity’s first Local Ambassadors and was asked to develop the scheme from its initial concept so my biggest challenge was a ‘blank sheet’! It is a new idea so there wasn’t a benchmark to work towards. Another challenge is to help the charities help themselves rather than doing it for them – I need to stop myself from getting too involved.

What do you gain either personally or professionally from volunteering? It has helped me to fulfil a personal aim of keeping my brain active through research, preparation and the presentations themselves. All the social contact also keeps me busy. I have started to learn more about social media too; it is never too late to learn.

Would you recommend volunteering and if so why? Absolutely – I wouldn’t be able be in this role if I didn’t believe that volunteering can give so much. It is incredibly varied and flexible so there is something for everyone.

You can get huge amounts out of volunteering though I do believe you need to give before you can get back: if you go into it half-heartedly, you might not get as much out of it and reap the full rewards it offers.

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