Posts Tagged ‘changemakers’
Tom Mower, 22, from Leeds is down to the final five of a global competition run by GVI to volunteer around the world for a year.
Over the last four years, he’s given over 1,500 hours of his time to volunteering. Tom tells us all about his extraordinary story so far and why volunteering is so important to him….
My name’s Tom and I’m proud to be a volunteer-aholic. Why? Because I find volunteering to be great fun, really rewarding, and beneficial for myself and others. For me, volunteering isn’t just something to put on my CV or something to do when I’m bored; it’s a huge part of my life and my volunteering experiences have really shaped my view of the world.
My addiction to volunteering has taken me from Leeds (North England) to the amazing Amazon rainforest and to South Africa, to music festivals and government meetings, and to allotments and beautiful countryside.
It started when I moved to Leeds in September 2008 for university. I soon discovered that volunteering doesn’t mean doing boring work for free, it’s about having the opportunity to do something you’re passionate about, having a great time, and meeting lots of fantastic, like-minded people.
Creating real change
In my first two years at uni, I volunteered as part of a human rights and environmental campaign group, People and Planet. I had great fun running a ‘bottled water funfair’ as part of our successful campaign to make Leeds University Union the first in the country to replace all bottled water with re-usable bottles.
After several successful campaigns I realised that creating real change and having tangible impacts locally is a huge motivator for me. So much so that I realised that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life!
That’s when my volunteering addiction got really bad/good…
I decided to take a year out to volunteer as an Environmental Education assistant for a local community charity, Groundwork Leeds. I helped on all sorts of fantastic projects in schools and communities, lasting from a few hours up to 10 weeks.
I’ve also volunteered doing scientific research in Ecuador and helping with conservation on a game reserve in South Africa with GVI.
While in Leeds I’ve also done peer mentoring, first aid, conservation, youth work, festival stewarding and loads more… the choices when it comes to volunteering are pretty much endless!
Here’s what I learnt…
There is very little on Earth that is more rewarding and gratifying than seeing the happiness of others grow thanks to the time and effort you spend with them.
What’s more, through my volunteering, I have finally found a career that I really want to follow in Environment Education.
So my advice would be to really embrace volunteering and do as much as you can – whatever your interests there will be something to suit you.
Try new things. You’ll experience so much more of what life has to offer, you’ll meet loads of interesting people and gain some new friends, and you’ll probably learn a lot about yourself along the way.
So do what I did, get out there and volunteer… but be warned, it’s so good you’ll soon get addicted!
Last week at vInspired, we had the pleasure of welcoming John-Paul Flintoff to speak at our regular Innovation Lunch. These lunches provide an important opportunity for vInspired staff to meet, learn from and be inspired by individuals who are using their skills and talents to make a difference.
At first glance, John-Paul’s credentials don’t mark him out as someone who wants to change the world. As an experienced journalist, writing for the Financial Times and Sunday Times among others, it’s easy to imagine Flintoff as a cynical old hack, with little interest in making a difference. However, it’s clear within minutes that Flintoff is different.
Indeed, it was precisely his own journalistic investigation into sweatshops in Manhattan that inspired him to learn how to make his own clothes – and then encourage others to do the same. ‘These days, we don’t make things, we just buy them,’ he explains – an approach which dulls our own sense of agency and our understanding of how clothes are made.
He shows off his attire, and explains how with the help of his Great Aunt Peggy, a YouTube group called ThreadBanger and a second-hand treadle sewing machine, he learnt how to cut patterns and sew his own shirts and jeans. The results are impressive and Flintoff is fiercely enthusiastic about the learning and discovery process that underpins his new hand-made wardrobe.
He explained how a network of friends, relatives, a local seamstress, a haberdashery and online resources helped him to perfect his art: ‘Every time I made a mistake, I thought YES, I’m one step closer to getting it right.’ And when you find out that he now grows hemp and nettles so that he can spin his own yarn to make Y-fronts, you can see how far he’s come.
Changing the world
Flintoff’s latest project is no less awe-inspiring – he’s out to change the world and to share his world-changing tips with others. He’s the first to acknowledge that it’s a pretty ambitious goal, and that anyone who says they want to change the world runs the risk of being laughed at – or at least perceived as a bit odd. But he’s steadfast in his view that we all have the creativity, resources and passion to make positive change happen. As Flintoff points out, ‘We all make history, all the time – through the infinitesimally small actions that we take (or don’t take) every day.’
We’re already change-makers, whether we know it or not, and Flintoff’s latest book, ‘How to change the world,’ is designed to help us direct our energies towards the things we most want to change. ‘Be clear about what needs fixing’ advises Flintoff – once you know precisely what the problem is, you’ll be better equipped to identify possible solutions.
He also encourages a step-by-step approach to making change happen, by crowd-sourcing ideas and solutions, cherry-picking your favourite ideas and taking action. ‘Don’t over-think the problem – it will become huge, alarming and too big to deal with,’ he explains. ‘Each step leads you further down the path of change, so start now and get on with it!’’
So, who cares if people laugh or think you’re a bit odd? You CAN change the world. Starting now!
John Paul Flintoff’s new book, ‘How to change the world’ is available now.