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Fellow Traveller

Barry Harper is part of the focus group who helped write our story A bigger Picture. A keen traveller, he enjoys visiting residential homes to share his experiences with people who are physically unable to leave their home.

Since retiring, volunteering and charity work has enabled Barry to give something back to society while also passing on a wealth of knowledge accumulated from thirty-two years working for the Police Force.

I was a police officer for thirty-two years, retiring as a chief inspector in charge of the Drugs Directorate. Upon retirement I worked full time at Nottinghamshire County Council as a community safety officer for four years and then worked as a police and insurance manager at Protect Fog Alarms. For the last six years I have worked as a primary school teacher for DARE Lifeskills, teaching children the dangers of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, bullying, stress management and good communication skills. I also work as a steward supervisor for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.

Trent Bridge (image: Wikipedia mattbuck, cc-by-sa-2.0)

I have been a volunteer for quite a few years now. I got into it because I wanted to do things to help others and the community. It’s vitally important for people to act as volunteers, otherwise certain charities and initiatives could fail. I also enjoy the feeling of helping others. I have walked to the North Pole twice (2005/6) The South Pole once (2008), I was a member of the first team to cross The Great Slave Lake in Northern Canada, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (2016), Mont Blanc (1997), The Inca Trail (2006) and Everest Base Camp (2018), all for charity.

I am currently the chair of trustees at a local community and training centre (The Tin Hat at Selston), and a governor at The Place at Bottesford. This is an Independent School set up to meet the needs of young people who find it difficult to achieve in mainstream environments where their emotional and developmental needs cannot be met. I also help out with elderly groups, giving talks and generally helping out with whatever needs to be done. I have also been involved in charity work at Portland Training College and I work as a volunteer for Rainbows Children’s Hospice. In addition to this I work as a volunteer at sporting events, such as The Nottingham Open Tennis Championships, The Women’s Cricket World Cup, The Men’s Cricket World Cup, The World Athletics Championships, World Indoor Athletics Championships, The Solheim Cup (golf), and the World Cycling Championships amongst others.

Everyday stories and lives can act as an inspiration to others, encouraging people to help each other. At the Tin Hat we encourage lonely people to get involved in schemes at the centre such as lunch time meals, IT courses and meeting other people. However, there are some people who I work with who are physically unable to leave their home and consequently do not have access to culture Therefore it is crucial that volunteers, such as me, go out to them. It is very rewarding to help people in such challenging situations. Anyone can get involved in such schemes by contacting the charities or care homes directly or by contacting the local councils.

The Inca trail, Peru

I have recently given a talk to a care group (Brinsley Old Persons’ Club) about climbing the Inca Trail in Peru, this was a charitable walk for Portland Training College in 2006. The residents found this talk stimulating and regularly invite me back. They may be physically inert, but that doesn’t stop them from travelling mentally. The imagination is a liberating force. A good story can transport anyone anywhere.

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Community Life Survey

According to statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the proportion of people volunteering has increased in recent years, but the average amount of time spent volunteering per day has fallen.

During 2012 and 2015 volunteers gave 7% less of their time to help their communities, at a loss to the UK of more than £1 billion.

There was a 15.4% decline in the total number of frequent hours volunteered, between 2005 and 2015 – a drop from 2.28 billion hours to 1.93 billion, figures from the Community Life Survey show.

In 2018-19, 38% of people had taken part in either formal or informal volunteering at least once a month. This is the same as in 2017-18 but lower than in 2013-14 (44%). In the same period, 62% had taken part in either formal or informal volunteering at least once in the last 12 months. This is similar to 2017-18 (64%) but lower than in 2013-14 (70%).

The latest Community Life survey suggests the number of daily minutes volunteered by people aged 55 and above continues to fall. There are numerous possible explanations for this, such as having to take up paid work to compensate for pension shortfalls and increased living costs.