By Brother Michael Newman, OH
I bet you did not know it was ‘volunteer week’ the first week in June?Volunteers play an important role in most charitable organisations. Throughout the Province there is an open welcome for volunteers to offer their services to the huge range of activities within the English Province. Here are some examples: Befriending women and men with learning disability in one of our small homes, perhaps taking them for an outing, personal shopping, or just spending time with them, playing computer games or writing letters for them. Helping in our Community Centre in Welwyn Garden City or in the Horticultural Training Centre also in Welwyn Garden City. Both these places have some interesting and creative work with the young, elderly or those who need that little extra help to work with plants, shrubs or vegetables. Sensitive help with our mental health outreach team, helping vulnerable people live a full life in their own home and community setting. Then there is the challenging work with the homeless migrant workers in London. A host of different skills and talents are needed here, from teaching English, helping our staff help these men and women find jobs and accommodation, help with the cooking or even collecting food from supermarkets that would go to waste. Saint John of God started his work in Granada in 1537. He went into the streets and lanes of Granada to find the poor, the homeless and the sick…and brought them back to his small house, then to a bigger place and finally to his house of charity, his hospital of hospitality. He did this initially on his own, but soon he got offers of help from women and men willing to work alongside him in his noble work. Our present Prior General Brother Donatus Forkan, head of the Order worldwide and the successor to John of God says this about volunteering today. We receive with joy your support in our centres. Thank you for your dedication and for your time. The tasks you perform have a role that is very significant. You listen, you accompany, you involve yourselves, you show love, and you suffer with those who suffer. And remember this, as we serve others, we always receive much more than we give. Volunteers contribute so much to our services, coming as they do from rich and varied backgrounds. They bring skills and experience, wisdom and understanding; volunteers give freely of their time with no expectations of recompense and without counting the cost. Our volunteers bring all this to us and much more, they help shape and mould the spirit with which our services are delivered and contribute to our ethos. And yes, they also receive from the people they serve and have the joy of helping others. After all, on judgement day we will be asked questions that relate to helping others, standing by the poor and marginalised. And the question from the Master is “When did you help?” Volunteers are benefactors….they give their talent, skills and experience and that special commodity that we do have…our time. Look around your community and see if you can help. It should be a positive and enriching experience. Volunteer week 2009 is maybe a call to serve and a call to be enriched oneself. Or give us a call and see if you can help continue the work of Saint John of God started 472 years ago in the city of Granada in Spain.