Matthew Volunteers his time for free to give back to the local community.

My name is Matthew and I’m a Director at a local boxing Community Interest Company (CIC). I’ve always loved the sport, since watching Rocky 2 as a 10 year old many moons ago. I feel privileged to be able to play my part in improving the lives of many people from our local community through boxing.

My responsibilities as a Director are carried out behind the scenes, on the safe side of the ropes. I help to manage the company’s finances, implement robust governance procedures, determine future development strategy, and identify opportunities for the company to grow, so that we can make a significant impact on local issues including anti-social behaviour, knife crime, obesity, and mental health. As well as being a Director of a boxing company, I am also a volunteer, giving my time for free to give back to the local community.

But it’s by no means a selfless endeavour. I love volunteering. It helps to give me a sense of purpose. It allows me to be around, and learn from, some great people; and it enables me to pursue and be involved in something that I have a great passion for. My voluntary role involves a number of responsibilities, including managing finances, implementing robust governance procedures, determining future development strategy, and identifying opportunities to grow.

Sound familiar?

You might have noticed that my responsibilities as a Director, and my responsibilities as a volunteer, are the same. Well, there’s a simple reason for that – they are one and the same role. This may surprise you. When we think of volunteering we often think of helping out in a charity shop, standing outside of a supermarket waving a collection tin, or baking a cake for a school fayre.

The fact is that there is a massive range of diverse and exciting opportunities to volunteer; from presenting a show on community or hospital radio, befriending older people that are lonely and isolated, and running exercise programmes for people that are struggling with their mental health; to staffing the reception desk at a local hospice, taking your dog to befriend older people that miss the companionship of a dog of their own, and delivering self-esteem building workshops to girls in local primary schools.

And here’s another thing about being a volunteer – we don’t necessarily think of ourselves as being ‘a volunteer’. I am a Director of Fighting Chance Billingham Boxing Club. You could be a Scout Leader, a Social Media Manager, or a Football Coach. Such roles aren’t defined solely by the fact that they aren’t paid; they are defined by what the role is, the skills that are required, the difference you can make, and the sense of purpose and satisfaction that you feel.

Being a volunteer is about what you give, but it is also about what it gives you back.

Before I volunteered in boxing, I worked in the sport for 11 years as an employee of the national governing body, England Boxing. While doing so I voluntarily pursued my other major passion, mental health. I gave a number of free talks to schools, colleges, universities and charities, to use my personal experiences to raise awareness and challenge stigma, and I took part in a number of campaigns for Time to Change.

Now, in a 360 degree reversal, while I volunteer in boxing I work in mental health, as an employee of Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind. Undeniably, the volunteering that I have previously done helped me to change my career from boxing to mental health, while my love for the sport and the experience I had gained allowed me to maintain my involvement as a volunteer.
And the job I do in mental health? I work on a brilliant new project called Community Minded that uses volunteering to improve people’s mental health.

Some people think that volunteering isn’t for them but I beg to differ; volunteering is for everybody. What could it do for you?

To find out more about Community Minded please visit: http://www.middlesbroughandstocktonmind.org.uk/services-support/community-minded.aspx

To read more from Matthew you can visit his website, A Familiar Stranger: https://afamiliarstranger.co.uk/