Make 2014 the year of the helping hand

Pegasus Theatre volunteer Julia Tilford with assistant operations manager Joe Shuter. Picture:  OX64794 Jon Lewis

Pegasus Theatre volunteer Julia Tilford with assistant operations manager Joe Shuter. Picture: OX64794 Jon Lewis Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

Pegasus Theatre in Magdalen Road, Oxford, has been nurturing talent, staging productions and introducing the magic of the performing arts to young people since 1962.

But none of this would have been possible without the support of its committed volunteers, who are involved in almost every aspect of the theatre, from ushering to even the gardening.

Assistant Operations manager, Joe Shuter, 30, and from Oxford, said: “The Pegasus has no full-time staff and only a very small core staff. Basically most of the people you meet, from the people who tear your ticket, to those who sell you an ice cream or a programme, are volunteers. They are incredible people and vital to the Pegasus and we are always looking for more.”

Since a major refurbishment in 2010, Pegasus has been able to offer a wider range of workshops, projects and course places for up to 3500 young people and adults, up to 20 in-house productions and 70-80 visiting productions, including commissions, each year.

But as with many council-supported organisations, the Pegasus is now facing a loss of two thirds of its council grant in 2014/15, which will make it even more reliant on volunteers and their fundraising.

Mr Shuter said: “There is an opportunity for mostly anyone to volunteer here. We have had 11-year-olds who have appeared in shows come back to tear tickets. We have people who work, those who don’t, those who are retired and those who want to raise money for us.”

Mother-of-two, Julia Tilford, 46, from Oxford, started volunteering on the weekend of the Pegasus relaunch in 2010, to give her another interest away from being a full-time mum.

She said: “I live nearby and had been to the theatre before and that first night I served drinks. But I have also torn tickets and now usher once a month.

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“I love the buzz of the theatre, the friendly people who work here and as well as supporting the theatre which I see as a great part of my community.”

  • Marketing volunteers can call 01865 812 171 or email gill.jaggers@pegasustheatre.org.uk
  • Fundraising volunteers call 01865 812 173 or email bel.crewe@pegasustheatre.org.uk
  • For any other volunteering opportunities call Donna Waterer on 01865 812 154 or email donna.waterer@pegasustheatre.org.uk

Helping children to read opens a whole new chapter

THE charity Assisted Reading for Children, better known as ARCh, recruits, trains and supports volunteers in primary schools, to help children who are having trouble reading.

The children have two individual half-hour sessions each week during term time with their ARCh volunteer, who in addition to reading, might play word, board or memory games, help the children write their own stories, or just talk to them to boost their confidence.

Langford Village School in Langford Village, Bicester, currently has eight ARCh volunteers, two working in each year group, including Ruth Leman, 66, who has been an ARCh volunteer for almost five years.

The Oxford Times:

Assisted reading volunteer Ruth Leman with Tabian Coombes at Langford Village Primary School in Bicester

Mrs Leman, from Bicester, said: “I was working part-time as a nurse when I joined ARCh and I have since retired.

“I wanted something to look forward to each week and I’ve always loved reading, so when I learned how ARCh helps children I was pleased to help.”

ARCh volunteers are assigned three children each September and work with them throughout that year for three hours a week.

Mrs Leman said: “It’s very rewarding to see their confidence grow. I write all the books we read on a little card for each of them and recently, one little nine year old boy told me he looks at his every day and thinks: ‘Look at all the books I’ve read!’

ARCh currently has over 240 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds in over 100 schools supporting around 700 Oxfordshire children, but it needs more volunteers.

Founder of the charity, Jane Rendell said: “We provide initial and ongoing training and support and an opportunity to make a real difference to a child’s life.”

  • For more details visit: www.archoxfordshire.org.uk/ or call 01869 320380.

Place where there’s no such thing as junk

Since opening its doors less than a year ago, Bicester Green has saved more than a tonne of people’s junk from landfill – and now it is looking for more volunteers who like to tinker and can help turn trash into ‘treasure’.

Bicester Green shares warehouse space with Sobell House Charity Megastore on Station Approach, Bicester, and has three purpose-built workshops and a team of volunteers who all work together to repair and restore bicycles, furniture and portable electrical items.

Unwanted items come in from freecycle, freegle or ebay, and also from Cherwell District’s pilot household collection scheme for WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) before Bicester Green’s team of volunteers return them to a good standard.

Then, instead of ending up in landfill, they are tested and put on the Sobell House Megastore shop floor, to be sold to the public.

The Oxford Times:

Manager Emma Gordon at Bicester Green

Manager Emma Gordon, 28, from Oxford, said: “We are doing really well and I think that is partly down to the fact that things are getting more expensive and people are looking at ways of fixing things, rather than throwing them away.

“And there has also been a resurgence in the ‘Make Do and Mend’ way of thinking. So we are looking for learners and teachers – people who love to tinker and mend things – who are also interested in sharing their skills.”

Ms Gordon said the work of Bicester Green might particularly appeal to older men who have retired: “Or teenagers who love to tinker with bikes and want to learn more.

“But whatever their age or background, our volunteers tell us it’s a really interesting organisation to be part of.”

Peter Myers, 63 and from Bicester, worked in admin for car dealerships before taking early retirement. He now volunteers at Bicester Green for around 20 hours a week.

The Oxford Times:

Peter Myers

He said: “I have always loved tinkering around at home and mending things, but there’s only so many things I can find to do at home each day, so when I read about Bicester Green it seemed just what I was looking for.

“I came along to find out about it one day in June, took my coat off and basically started work there and then.”

According to Mr Myers, many of the appliances he sees could be restored quickly and cheaply.

He explained: “Limescale, like that in your kettle, can be soaked in vinegar for a day and then rinsed away. Vacuum cleaners often just need a filter clearing out, and a surprising number need only a new fuse or flex.”

Volunteers are urged to ‘get creative’, and quirky items which have been restored and sold on have included a pair of old speakers turned into bedside tables, chairs that have been transformed with some simple re-upholstering and beautifully reconditioned bicycles.

Bicester Green is interested in hearing from anyone over 16 who wants to learn to fix things, and would particularly like to attract a volunteer workshop supervisor who can advise volunteers on how to use tools and make repairs things.

The supervisor role would require around four hours a day, three days a week.

  •  For details about getting involved email emma@bicestergreen.org.uk

FIND OUT MORE

  • THERE are hundreds of volunteering vacancies available in Oxfordshire, ranging from dog walking to delivering meals on wheels, befriending to baking for disadvantaged children.
  • Volunteer Centre Oxfordshire offers information on organisations which are looking for volunteers in Oxford City, South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse.
  • Contact 01865 258916 for more details.

 

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