THE NEW ACTIVISM VOLUNTEERING
So you want me to do something for nothing? Not nothing, no. Volunteering is a way to gain skills, help out and make a difference. What could I do? There are always countless projects in search of volunteers, and if you want to get involved you could do worse than checking out their website (below). Whether you know exactly when and where you want to put your energy to use, or whether you haven’t got a clue where to start, the Edinburgh and Glasgow Volunteer Centres have hundreds of opportunities on offer, as well as all the support and advice you’ll need to get you out in the field. Specifically? The need for assistance, and the choice of projects, is incredibly diverse, and it’s worth spending time researching the vast range of options. You could end up doing anything from charity shop work to web design, driving to advocacy, working for organisations as far removed as the Scottish Youth Parliament, a local day-care centre, or a mock Victorian schoolroom. If you want to volunteer alongside friends, family or colleagues, there are even opportunities for team volunteering – much cheaper than conventional team-building schemes, and potentially much more rewarding for both sides. Can I be quite specific about what I can and can’t do? Yes. Opt for something that will be of particular interest. For those with specific professional skills to share, or who are constrained as to time or location and can’t find a project to suit, the centres allow would- be volunteers to advertise their availability to prospective groups and organisations in the hope of securing a match. A dedicated inclusion team ensures that anyone who wants to can volunteer, providing support for those with a disability or health problem, and offering help to those who don’t know what they want to do or are lacking in confidence. Volunteering can also be a good way of easing back into the workplace if you’ve been out of action for a while, and the Edinburgh centre (volunteeredinburgh.co.uk) has just set up an employment mentoring scheme to provide assistance in bridging the gap between voluntary and paid work. (Lizzie Mitchell) ■ www.volunteerscotland.org.uk 20 THE LIST 23 Jul–6 Aug 2009
<< It’s wonderful; it’s a creative act, and it’s liberating.
‘I became involved in direct action through the London M11 link road protests in 1994. Living on the blockade, I came to find out a lot more about the situation, about how the system works, how the government works, and about the way local people who would be affected by the motorway weren’t being given any say about what happened in their area. I also realised that people had the opportunity to fight back about it, which is something I hadn’t realised before.
‘I moved to Glasgow in 2003, and I’ve done a lot of community organising in Maryhill, where I live. In Glasgow, we have a very top-down system, with the council and Glasgow Housing Association, these kind of monolithic organisations who dictate to people what’s going to happen with their lives, and that’s wrong. Anarchism, to me, is where people have direct control over the things that affect them. I use all the skills I learnt as an activist in London, but on a local level, to put pressure on the GHA to fix lifts in high-rise blocks, to make sure that there are proper facilities for kids to play in.
‘At first, when the schools closures were
announced, it seemed as though this was another occasion when things would just be allowed to happen, but actually the parents got really angry. Communities need local primary schools, that people can walk to, can meet at. Glasgow City Council has the money to spend £50,000 on renovating a fountain in Kelvingrove Park, to organise massive city marketing events, but no money for primary schools? The parents decided to occupy the primary
schools, to move in, over the whole Easter holidays, and we went along to support them. This is direct action, this is the beauty of it: they’re acting as a community to take control over their lives. ‘In the end, their campaign was unsuccessful: the
council have announced they’re going ahead with the school closures anyway, but it was very inspiring, very exciting, to be there and see the difference it made to the parents. Being involved in direct action changes how you feel in response to power – you don’t feel that power is this thing that
operates onto you from the outside, that you can’t have any interaction with. They also found out, I think, that their opinions mattered, that they themselves mattered. Working class women, living in these estates, have always been felt disempowered, and have long been told that their place in society is a very lowly one. Suddenly, they were being interviewed by GMTV and the BBC news, and it transformed them: after spending their lives at the beck and call of the council, the council had to come to them. And they know how to organise themselves, now. They know how to contact the media. They know they can do something.’ (Interview by Kirstin Innes. Alice asked us not to print her full name.) ■ sosglasgow.wordpress.com glasgowanarchists.wordpress.com
THE YOUTH WORKER Euan Platt is the National Participation Co-ordinator for LGBT Youth Scotland. He trains LGBT young people between the ages of 13 and 26 to become activists,
working to increase tolerance and awareness across the country. ‘It’s my job to identify opportunities for young people to get involved in campaigns and youth activism projects. I co-ordinate the LGBT National Youth Council, an elected body of young people who come together and work on campaigns to help challenge and improve life for other young people who are LGB or T. ‘At the moment, we’re campaigning for sexual
orientation to be covered further in the Equality Bill, which currently doesn’t include harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation. We’ve collected young people’s stories of times they’ve experienced harassment about their sexual orientation, and we’re going to be presenting them to the government and to the EU, when the Equality Bill is >> discussed there.