My work affords me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people living in Wales. Altogether, we have some 900 member-organisations at Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) and I can honestly say I’m almost always in the company of people who feel like sunshine.
Their warmth is undeniable. They have boundless energy, and give others hope and strength. These people, who make up the third sector (including charities, social enterprises and other organisations) are invaluable.
To showcase these changemakers, we’ve commissioned a brand-new photography exhibition by the talented Warren Orchard, who predominantly works in the media and advertising sectors. He has captured the human face of these organisations.
Warren travelled around Wales to meet and photograph key people from 11 of our member organisations in order to throw a spotlight on their fantastic contribution. And he really does reflect the humanity and good in all of us. Among them is Roy, who helps run Anglesey Foodbank, and delivers emergency food parcels to people on the island who live below the poverty line.
We also meet Len, who has been volunteering with Talking Books Wales for the past 28 years, spending hundreds of hours reading Welsh language novels in a small recording studio in Carmarthen, for the benefit of others. And then there’s Laura, a fundraising coordinator, who has been involved with Tŷ Hafan for the past 15 years, who she considers to be family at this point, having first volunteered with them as an 18-year-old.
This inspiring exhibition shines a light on the real diversity of the people who give their time – not because they have to, but because they want to. It also shows the diversity of the volunteer force active in communities across the country, and gives a great insight into the range of paid and unpaid roles and opportunities available.
We decided to call the exhibition ‘Being the Change’ because this is exactly what these people are doing. Echoing the words of Mahatma Ghandi, the exhibition represents the extraordinary work of third sector staff and volunteers the length and breadth of Wales.
It is estimated over 32,000 third sector organisations work in Wales. We believe each and every person in Wales could ‘be the change’ and find at least one charity or social enterprise they could get passionate about. Even the most buoyant among us feel disheartened at the moment.
Whether it’s the Brexit process, climate change catastrophe or atrocities like the terrorist act in Christchurch, most of us are thinking: what is happening to our world?
But we needn’t feel entirely powerless. There is no need to feel completely isolated. True, the third sector will never – or should ever – solve all ills, but it can make things better. And it can help fix the bits of our communities that we think are broken.
There is one way to take back control, right here, right now – in Wales. Whether you’re passionate about a particular cause, angry about something, or motivated to find out more about an evolving issue, I promise you there will be a charity, voluntary organisation, group or project with which you can get involved.
And if you can’t find one, then you can set one up! Lots of people do this. And WCVA or the expert network of County Voluntary Councils (CVCs) and Volunteer Centres across Wales can help you.
All charities – whether household names or small local community associations – all value the skills and experience we can – and should – share. After all, volunteers already undertake £757m worth of unpaid work, many propping up struggling public services, like libraries and sports’ facilities.
I meet lots of volunteers, in all sorts of projects, and whenever I ask how they got involved, the most frequent reply is that “someone asked me”. So, this is me asking you: “will you please join us?” Let’s be the change.
If you would like to volunteer, check out Volunteering Wales for the latest opportunities: www.volunteering-wales.net
WCVA will be taking this photo exhibition to the National Eisteddfod of Wales in August. They are calling on the people of Wales to be the change they want to see in their communities. If you would like a sneak peek of the whole exhibition, you can visit gofod3 today in Cardiff City Stadium, between 9am and 4.30pm. On the door, free entry is still available, with limited entry to sessions. Find out more at www.gofod3.cymru
As a follow-up to this article, a selection of Warren Orchard’s photos will be published on Click on Wales over the coming days.
All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.