THE Big Help Out is coming. What’s that? Who’s helping whom? ‘The Big Help Out’ is a volunteering initiative being launched on Bank Holiday Monday, May 8, as part of the Coronation celebrations.

The website states: "Starting on Monday, May 8th, there will be opportunities for everyone to join in. No matter what you are good at, there’ll be something to suit helping hands of all shapes and sizes. For an hour or a day." (Find out more at:

I’m a big supporter of volunteering and all in favour of encouraging people, who may not have thought of volunteering before in their local community.

There are a large variety of volunteering opportunities and there is something available for most people, though it may take a couple of attempts before finding something that suits each person’s personality and availability.

Volunteers work in every type of environment, indoors and outdoors, active and sedentary. Personally, as well as paid work over decades, volunteering has been life changing and provided me with some unexpected and wonderful experiences.

But I have a niggle. I get irritated filling in the section on forms stating, 'Occupation'. Nowadays, I undertake a variety of volunteer work. That is, I don’t get paid for the work I do. Which box should I tick? 'Part-time work'? 'Self-employed'?

I could answer affirmative to those and do, but the question is really about financial status. I have only seen two forms in recent years, which had the option to tick a box marked ‘Volunteer’ or ‘Unpaid Work’. I’m not sure the latter category is correct, because anyone looking after their home, garden, family member, neighbour or animal, is undertaking unpaid work.

York Press: Rita LeamanRita Leaman

One form that was missing the category ‘Volunteer’, which especially frustrated me, was the 2021 Census. On the Government’s Census website, the information states: "The Census takes place every ten years. It gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales". A picture that I believe is incomplete. A picture that does not account for the hundreds of thousands of people, who contribute to a healthier society with their volunteer work.

The London12 Olympics could not have happened at all without the volunteer Games Makers.

Unfortunately, in post pandemic times, many organisations are struggling with declining numbers of volunteers. Volunteering can help reduce mental health disorders, through providing a sense of purpose, a sense of achievement and interaction with other people. A sense of self worth can be achieved without always needing a financial reward.

Volunteering is for life, not just the Coronation.

Rita Leaman is a writer and speaker on emotional health. As Alison R Russell, she published Are you Chasing Rainbows?. As Rita Leaman she published a compilation of The Press York columns 2014 -19 in ‘Wise Words’. website: