Giving the gift of time

Choosing to volunteer for a charity is a very personal decision powered by a desire to help others.

Choosing to volunteer for a charity is a very personal decision powered by a desire to help others. Sometimes this desire can be very emotionally charged, especially where an individual has been personally affected by an illness or death and is seeking to give something back to the support or medical organisation that came to their own or someone else’s aid. Other times, it is simple appreciation for the services delivered that is the main motivating factor.

At the Great North Air Ambulance Service, we rely upon volunteers to help us reach out to and engage with the general public. Our mere existence is reliant upon community fundraising, making community engagement critical to our future. Because of the importance of this role we refer to our volunteers as our ‘Ground Crew’. We simply could not attend the volume of events and social engagements that we do, without them. Besides social appearances and presentations, our volunteers are also adding value in other areas.

We spoke to a couple of our volunteers to find out why they choose to volunteer and their experience with GNAAS. Amanda Simmister, a finance professional from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, has volunteered for us for over seven years and has been involved in a variety of fundraising initiatives.

She said: “I found out about GNAAS when researching local charities to donate to. Being a Northern girl I wanted a North-East charity to get the funds and on looking into the financial accounts I realised GNAAS weren’t part of the NHS and was reassured that financially, it was a well-run charity. I made my decision to offer my donation to them.

“From there on, I began collecting bags of clothing for recycling from family and friends as well as bric-a-brac. Over the years I have also been involved in store collections, fairs and events, pub events and cheque presentations. I’ve participated in the Great North Run a number of times and also been heavily involved in collecting prize donations from businesses and individuals.

“Since my involvement a few people I have known have been rescued by either GNAAS or another air ambulances.  Unfortunately, a good friend died on the operating table despite being treated and taken by GNAAS from the scene of a road traffic collision. So the importance of what we do as a charity is always at the front of my mind, yet this only fuels my determination all the more.

“I put a lot in to help the charity but I also get great rewards. Volunteering has helped with my self-confidence and then there is the social aspect of it too, as I have met many wonderful people through my work. I also involve my mam in quite a bit and this keeps her occupied and broadened her social circle.

“Some people I have met have become really good friends and in fact from my GNAAS volunteering I become a godmother to the daughter of a couple who have become good friends.  Needless to say she has had many pictures taken with Miles the Bear and has her own bear which I gave her when she was born.

“A lot of people around my local area now have my volunteer card and ring me to collect items or answer queries and I would say I do between 15 and 20 hours per week on average doing different things for GNAAS.  With working full time I can’t do much more, despite really wanting to.

“I feel incredibly proud to say that I represent the charity and I love seeing the helicopter and managing to take photos of it in the sky. I’ve had the privilege of meeting the crew at a number of events and a corporate open days.  I even got to sit in the helicopter once, which was amazing.”

Amanda’s dedication is incredibly important to us and her passion and desire to do good is valued greatly by everyone at the charity. As our activity plans get busier and busier year-on-year, we have recently welcomed several new volunteers. Rita Craddy from Stockton joined GNAAS in January of this year and has been involved in everything from promoting our lottery, collecting donations to attending summer events. Nothing is too much trouble for her and she’s quickly made some fans within the fundraising team. Rita is a wonderful addition to the Ground Crew.

She said: “My reasons for volunteering are quite selfish as l get so much out of helping GNAAS. Knowing that my couple of hours of fun ends up with benefiting the air ambulance keep me coming back for more. l can’t help enough and if l could drive l would do so much more. When l’m needed it makes me feel wanted and useful. It’s my reason for getting out of bed on a morning. Every minute is well worth it, l would advise anyone with time on their hands to volunteer for some charity. It has been the making of me.”

The newest recruit, Jamie Moon from Billingham, is just about to embark on his volunteer experience with us, proving that volunteering isn’t exclusively for the retired or older professional. Having graduated from Leeds University with a 2:1 degree in marketing and advertising, Jamie explains why he chose GNAAS and what benefits volunteering will offer someone as young as him.

He said: “I heard about a marketing related volunteer position at GNAAS through a relative. The timing was perfect as I was really very keen to gain some relevant marketing experience, since graduating I had been working in catering, as earning a wage being my primary concern.

“As any recent business graduate will know, marketing positions are extremely competitive and I was struggling to gain the first vital bit of experience needed to set my career off in the right direction.

“When I heard about the position at GNAAS I jumped at the opportunity and now I can’t wait to get stuck into some projects and put everything I learned into practice. Putting my personal gain aside, I was excited by the idea of being able to help a local charity too.

“Having organised a number of fundraising music nights in aid of Butterwick Hospice, fundraising and charity work is not new to me, in fact I love it.”

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