My Volunteering Story, Robert

Hear from Robert, our fantastic Engagement Manager for the Action Earth project in Scotland, who started off as a volunteer with CSV Media in Edinburgh back in 1990.

During Volunteers Week, we’re excited to celebrate the colleagues at Volunteering Matters who began their journey with us as volunteers. Some started as far back as the 1990s when we were known as CSV (Community Service Volunteers). For instance, Robert, our fantastic Engagement Manager for the Action Earth project in Scotland, started off as a volunteer with CSV Media in Edinburgh back in 1990. We were so excited to hear from Robert about the incredible experiences he had as a volunteer with us. 

”None of us had any experience at all in the area of screenwriting, producing, casting, budgeting or arranging elaborate dance routines but CSV gave us that ‘why not try’ attitude!” 

“Since 1990, I have been a trainee, volunteer and a member of staff in many different capacities. I started with CSV in 1990 and apart from a few short breaks, I have been with Volunteering Matters ever since – and continuously since 1999. After all that time, I think you can say I enjoyed it as both staff and volunteer! 

As I wanted to write, I initially came to CSV Media and started the Edinburgh Media Action Social Action weekly columns that appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News. We covered topics ranging from depression, Winter warmth, Benefits advice to ‘Dog Fouling Awareness’. We had the ‘Scoop on the Poop’ as the paper titled it! After a trial run of 3 months, CSV Media were contracted by the Edinburgh Evening News  as a weekly feature with a mailed out information pack.  While volunteering, I also provided weekly film reviews for various local newspapers and conducted interviews with celebrities such as Michael Palin, Ralph Fiennes and Gerry Anderson.  

As a result of all this writing experience, I was hired for a full-time position with CSV Media. In this role, I helped other volunteers and trainees secure placements and opportunities within the Edinburgh media world. These opportunities included positions at BBC Scotland, the Council Press Team, local papers, and setting up restricted license community radio stations. It was an exciting two-year period during which we demonstrated to our participants that their skills had practical applications in the media industry. With creativity at the forefront, we brought many of our ideas to life, enabling volunteers and trainees to start their careers in the media industry. 

They were fun times of which I have many fond memories like when a group of us media volunteers got together to make a short film  called ‘Dial S for Slingback’ about a pair of murderous shoes that turned the wearer into a serial killer!  It wasn’t done during CSV time but we wouldn’t have met otherwise. None of us had any experience at all in the areas of screenwriting, producing, casting, budgeting or arranging elaborate dance routines but CSV gave us that ‘why not try’ attitude! We raised about £10k and got a film student as our director. It was a hoot and 3 of the 4 main actors subsequently ended up as CSV staff!  

I’ve had the pleasure of organising some really exciting events over the years, including at the Scottish Parliament, Make A Difference Day, and various fundraising events. I have so many great memories, like when First Minister Jack McConnell joined us for CSV Make A Difference Day in 2004. It was the UK’s biggest day of Volunteering Action, and we took him to Childline in Glasgow, where he met the amazing staff and volunteers. He volunteered around their office, making tea for the volunteers and even took a pre-arranged phone call with an adult looking to volunteer there. And who could forget the time I rocked the stage as Elvis in a musical reminiscence extravaganza as part of CSV’s Community History Project? Oh, and the epic Halloween party we threw for overseas Full-Time Volunteers in 2007! Good times. And in 2009, the CSV team met First Minister Alex Salmond at the Scottish Parliament. 

Particularly special time has been spent working on our environmental grant -giving campaign Action Earth which I’ve been involved with since 2005. It is an incredible project that is still going strong today, thanks in no small part to Joe Knowles who has been our incredible Action Earth volunteer for 14 years!  When we launched a Frog Hotel at the Scottish Association for Mental Health in 2009 I was interviewed by Chris Evans on Radio 2 in 2009 which then led to UK wide and International media coverage. I was running out of puns connected to croak-rooms and bell-hops!  

In 2015 the name CSV was changed to Volunteering Matters. I’m so glad we did as we used to take regular calls from people looking to do their Community Service with us! We always had to explain that we were a voluntary option. 

Volunteering Matters really opened my eyes to the potential of volunteering.  It offers a chance to explore new opportunities, express yourself and be heard. As a volunteer, I would be keen to try something new and would say “I am really interested in this and you don’t do it yet – would you like me to look into this?” and the enthusiasm, collaboration, and feedback I received throughout the processes were always amazing. Volunteering Matters has always been able to attract positive and dynamic staff, and I have made friends and work contacts in other organisations from every era of my time with the organisation.” 

If Robert’s story has inspired you as much as it has inspired us, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We always love to hear from both past and current volunteers. Your stories are uplifting and shed light on the transformative power of volunteering. 

Feeling inspired

If you’re thinking about volunteering but still not sure, we hope that Robert’s story encourages you to try. Click the link to find out more and begin your volunteering journey.

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