Volunteering has always been one of the cornerstones and great success stories of parkrun. But the way that we view the involvement of those who volunteer has evolved significantly.
In Ireland, the volunteers clock up a staggering 78,000 instances of volunteering between them every year.
These participants proudly wear the parkrun hi-vis and, in doing so, have taken huge steps to improve their own health and wellbeing.
Yet, in the beginning little did we realise how incredibly powerful and life-changing volunteering could be.
In the beginning
In the early days of parkrun we were focused on delivering events for the walkers and runners. The thought was that if every parkrunner was to ‘do their bit, give back and volunteer’, events would have a reliable stream of people to fill their volunteer roster every week.
Unfortunately, this sometimes meant people felt pressured to volunteer a certain number of times each year. Without realising it, we had fallen into the trap of viewing volunteering as a sacrifice.
We just hadn’t realised that far from being an unrewarding chore, volunteering was providing some of the richest and most beneficial parkrun experiences.
It’s true that, as an organisation, we always had a really good understanding of the function of volunteering but it’s only in the past few years that we have really begun to understand how beneficial it is to the volunteers in terms of their own health and wellbeing, with clear improvements in sense of purpose through community engagement, belonging and self worth.
An ever growing volume of evidence was emerging for us, that supported the opinion that:
In October 2019 we published the findings of our first-ever health and wellbeing survey. Over 6,000 Irish parkrunners contributed to the 60,000 plus who completed the survey, making it one of the biggest ever independent studies into physical activity.
The results confirmed our belief that participating at parkrun is fundamentally good for our physical and mental health. But it also revealed that the biggest benefits were experienced by those who volunteered in addition to walking, jogging and running. An incredible 84% of volunteers said parkrun improved their happiness.
We know that volunteering gets people outside, making new friends, having fun, learning skills and being a valuable part of the community.
So we now understand that volunteering isn’t a sacrifice, or about ‘giving up your time’. It’s actually a hugely positive form of participation that can have a transformative impact on so many people’s lives.
The future of volunteering
Through the insight we’ve gathered and the feedback we’ve received, we now know that to volunteer is as beneficial a form of participation at parkrun as walking, jogging or running.
We’re passionate about building a culture of volunteering at parkrun which highlights the sheer joy we know people feel, and the sense of value and appreciation in a safe environment where people are welcomed, included and supported, and that it is seen as an equal form of participation.
Far from being an obligation or an expectation, we now promote volunteering as an act of choice that’s open to everyone independent of age or ability.
National Volunteer Week
As we celebrate National Volunteering Week 2022 between 16 and 22 May, we would love to invite and encourage everyone to try volunteering at parkrun and realise just how special it can be.
You don’t need any special skills, you don’t need experience, you don’t even need to have done a parkrun before. There will always be someone on hand to explain what you need to do, answer any questions and provide support whenever you need it. You can always pair up with a friend or family member, and share a role if you’d prefer not to volunteer alone.
Our volunteering videos are a great way of seeing how simple and beneficial volunteering at parkrun can be, and you can find out more about the volunteering opportunities on our parkrun volunteer hub.
There are over 120 parkrun events in Ireland and you can find your nearest on our website, so why not get in touch with the event team or just turn up on the day.
We can’t wait to welcome you to an event!
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