GLASGOW 2014 - Volunteering helps beat pain of not having a job

THE countdown has begun to the deadline for applications to volunteer at the Commonwealth Games.

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As the clock ticks, organisers are reminding potential applicants that, no matter what their circumstances, there are very few barriers stopping anyone from offering up their time. MATTY SUTTON spoke to a man who is receiving benefits, about why he's hoping to take part in the Games, and a teacher who is keen to share her love of sport.

STUART High has been on job seekers allowance for over a year. The 33-year-old former call centre worker from Easterhouse has since applied for more than 150 jobs, but has not been successful.

He said the process was "demoralising", but filling his time with volunteering has given Stuart renewed confidence.

Now he has signed up to be part of Glasgow 2014 and is hopeful he will get a place assisting the world's media at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

This is a role Stuart should be familiar with, as he volunteered delivering race results to the media during the UCI Track World Cup in November, last year.

He said: "Volunteering has given me confidence.

"I like meeting different people and learning new skills."

When he first looked into volunteering, Stuart said he was concerned that he would not be able to do it without it affecting his benefits.

But he met with an advisor at the Job Centre and was reassured that he would not lose out financially from giving his time for free.

During London 2012, Stuart worked as a Games Maker at the Paralympics, where he was based at the Olympic Stadium.

He said: "I volunteered to try and improve my CV and fill in a gap in my employment history."

Stuart also volunteers at the Dogs Trust charity and has applied as a volunteer for the World Police and Fire Games in Belfast in July.

He said: "I got teamwork skills and I got motivation from working at London 2012.

"The highlights were meeting different cultures and making new friends.

"I got the volunteer bug from London 2012."

Stuart urged anyone on benefits who is considering volunteering to seek advice if they are concerned about losing their benefits.

He said: "It's an opportunity to learn new skills and do something different in life, there is nothing worse than sitting around the house being a couch potato, doing nothing."

Organisers at Glasgow 2014 confirmed that, under Universal Credit, people can volunteer for as many hours as they wish each week, provided this does not prevent them from meeting their weekly job search commitments.

Time spent volunteering can also count towards up to 50% of their weekly job search commitments.

A spokesman from Glasgow 2014 said: "Volunteering can be a great opportunity for unemployed people, in particular young unemployed people who have less experience of work.

"Volunteering helps people develop the skills and confidence that improve their chances of getting a job.

"Volunteering at the Commonwealth Games will be a different experience to a short term job, but a valuable one in terms of skills and experience."

PE teacher Geraldine Reid, watched the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, and the memories of that experience inspired her to be part of Glasgow 2014.

The 57-year-old, who works at All Saints Secondary in the north-east of the city, first started volunteering in the late 1960s, when she helped younger athletes at Bellahouston Harriers athletics club.

She went on to play volleyball at district and national league level, founding the Gregg Volleyball Club in the East End in 1978, with pupils from St Gregory's Secondary School in Cranhill.

Now grandmother-to-two Geraldine runs an after school netball club and has four teams competing in the Glasgow Schools League.

When her children started playing traditional music at St Roch's Secondary School, Geraldine became a voluntary teacher, a role she held for 15 years until stepping down, last year.

She said: "For most of my teaching life I have been a voluntary worker in one capacity or other.

"I have kept in contact with many pupils from the various schools I've worked in and can say many of them now are my good friends.

"I think you build up stronger and different relationships with pupils when you are working with and for them after school and I hope I've have had an influence in their developing into better people once they leave school."

Geraldine, who lives in Garrowhill, has seen the impact that the preparations for Glasgow 2014 has had on the East End.

She said: "I am looking forward to the Games – sport has always been a positive thing in my life and has opened many doors for me.

"Now that I teach sport, I feel that it has done the same for many of my pupils, past and present and that becoming a volunteer would be great for everyone, increasing confidence and developing new skills.

"I volunteered as a young person and this certainly gave me opportunities.

"As a resident of the East End, I have seen the benefits that the preparations for the Games have already brought to the area and I look forward to local people embracing the event next summer."

matty.sutton@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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