Have you heard the one about the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Buddhist Monk? It sounds like the start of a joke, but it actually relates to an event which took place last week at The Passage homelessness charity in central London to draw attention to the Big Help Out, one of the official projects of the upcoming Coronation Weekend of King Charles III and The Queen Consort.
The Big Help Out, which has been announced by the Palace as part of the Coronation festivities, is a huge public engagement campaign to promote, champion and showcase volunteering on Monday 8 May.
Organised by the Together coalition, partners include some of the biggest charities in the UK including NCVO, Royal Voluntary Service, Scouts, Girl Guiding, NSPCC and many others.
The weekend is not just about the Coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey on the Saturday, important as that is, but also gives us the opportunity to everyone be active citizens and come together as a nation.
Our community and faith communities more generally already play an outsized role in the country’s volunteering efforts and are set to be a pivotal part of the Big Help Out. The Jewish community in particular is steeped in volunteering both within the community and in the wider charity sector.
All our communal charities rely on volunteers to support their essential services and to engage people in their cause. JVN connects volunteers to volunteering opportunities and supports charities throughout the year and Mitzvah Day is the UK’s largest faith-led day of social action. JLGB-evolve connects youth to opportunities and Project ImpACT runs youth volunteering programmes.
In total, 28 million people volunteer every year in some way and at least 19 million do it every month. Whilst these are big figures, there are still many who don’t volunteer because they don’t know how to give help.
The current climate is not easy for volunteering. There has been a decline in recent years, partly due to the cost-of-living crisis and also the aftermath of Covid (which curbed some volunteering, particularly from the elderly, who haven’t returned).
The Big Help Out is working to make it easy for volunteers to recognise opportunities and get involved. It aims to get more people to consider volunteering, especially those from backgrounds who have never volunteered before.
This campaign is so important because, ultimately, volunteering has a triple benefit. It’s positive for the charities and beneficiaries who receive the support. Many of the 168,000 charities in England and Wales are heavily dependent on volunteers. It’s also good for the volunteers themselves.
Research repeatedly shows that there are health and social benefits to giving your time to help others. In a recent survey carried out by the NCVO, 77% of volunteers reported that volunteering improved their mental health and well-being, while 53% saw benefits to their physical health. Significantly, 77% of people aged 18-24 also said that volunteering made them feel less isolated. Finally, volunteering is also good for the fabric of society and it builds social cohesion.
The event at the Passage last week brought together the Chief Rabbi with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other religious and community leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities, organised with Mitzvah Day. This was accompanied by statements of support from over 30 religious leaders from all over the UK.
When it comes to the Big Help Out’s objective to promote volunteering, it’s no wonder that many faith communities wish to be involved. We think there are three particular reasons for this. First, Jewish and other faith traditions promote, in their scriptures, kindness and service to others. Secondly, there is ample evidence to show that faith communities volunteer at higher rates compared to the rest of the population.
Shuls along with churches, mosques, gurdwaras, temples and other places of worship act as hubs for volunteering. We are confident that when Coronation Champions are announced that there will be a good number from faith communities. The third reason why the Big Help Out is so relevant to faith communities is due to the wider context; the King has a long-standing interest in multi-faith engagement and of course, the Coronation itself is a faith-based event.
Shuls along with churches, mosques, gurdwaras, temples and other places of worship act as hubs for volunteering.
For all these reasons, faith organisations look set to play a significant role in The Big Help Out. Jewish Care, West London Synagogue, Norwood and other Jewish organisations are holding events around the day, whilst JVN is organising an online event this Sunday on ‘how to find your ideal volunteer role’, to help those who are not sure where or how to volunteer. Meanwhile, the Church in Wales is organising a beach clean in Wales and the Central Gurdwara London will be preparing food for those in need. This gives a flavour of just a few of the events that faith communities are organising. It’s not too late to organise something yourself.
The Coronation of the King and Queen will be a historic occasion. We have not had such an event for 70 years. Faith communities can be part of leaving an enduring and exciting legacy through encouraging even more volunteering.
Further information about the Big Help Out, including signing up for the app is here.
- Zaki Cooper is co-founder of Integra which is working on the Big Help Out and Nicky Goldman is Chief Executive of Jewish Volunteering Network.
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