Antidote to Bankers
At this time of year awards ceremonies come thick and fast, but last week I went to one with a difference. This one wasn’t in Cardiff City Hall or a smart hotel, but in Penydarren Social Club, Merthyr Tydfil. Instead of the obligatory Welsh lamb with noisettes of something fancy, it had a buffet made by a social enterprise; instead of ‘carriages at midnight’ it was Roy’s mini-bus at 10.30. But the biggest difference was what the evening celebrated.
The various winners showed that there is a different and better way of organising society than greed, cheating and lying. The winners were a complete antidote to what appear to be the everyday practices of banks and many other businesses. The awards were for volunteering, and the stories of the various winners said it all.
Here were people who gave their time freely – they didn’t get paid let alone get a bonus and they didn’t get recognition (apart from an unexpected trophy on the night!). Their time was a gift to others.
Not only that, but many of the winners had ONLY their time to give. Several winners had very difficult personal circumstances, with little money and a number of barriers to overcome. These were not ‘lady bountifuls’ doing good works. Yet they still gave their time, freely.
And they gave their time to good causes, not to benefiting themselves. They volunteered for driving a community bus, caring for a grandparent or developing a community garden. All these things made a huge difference to the people receiving the volunteer’s time.
As the banking scandal rumbles on, there IS an alternative and it’s alive and kicking here in Wales. The challenge is to find a way of harnessing this energy, enthusiasm and goodwill so that it’s at the centre of Welsh society.
Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation
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