Volunteers’ Week Blog

 mark patel musuem volunteer

This week is the 30th anniversary of Volunteers’ Week, and we want to thank our 20,000 plus volunteers who work year-round to provide first aid in communities up and down the country. Hear from our volunteers, in their own words, about what their role means to them.

Markand Patel, Museum Assistant

National Volunteers’ Week marks one year since I began volunteering the Museum of the Order of St John. The Museum tells the story of how the Order of St John was formed in Jerusalem and grew to help people internationally through humanitarian work.

I am proud to volunteer at the Museum – and very much agree with Nelson Mandela’s (who visited the Museum in 2004) comments that St John taps the most generous and caring human impulses. Volunteering has been an incredibly valuable experience and has helped me grow as a person.

For much of the past few years, I was adrift and not quite sure of what I wanted. This sense of meandering came from my childhood. During the 1970s my parents moved from Uganda to England at a time when there was great social change as well as some unfortunate prejudices and discrimination. I grew up living a sheltered, strict, religious life. But the Western world offered opportunities for me, and museums were the one place I always found refuge and enjoyment.

In my adult years, after a few wrong turns, I started thinking about what I wanted from life. I thought back to the comfort that museums brought me in my childhood, and realised I needed to work somewhere that could bring me enlightenment and healing.

The history of St John drew me in. Volunteering at the Museum has been a little like feeding the soul. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, such as completing a detailed catalogue of all the furniture in the museum to help secure funding for a furniture conservator, and create a new library for old medals, medallions and a variety of other cherished objects. I have also had the opportunity to go on first aid and fire marshall training.

By volunteering for a cause, I am a part of something bigger than myself, and it has given me more confidence.  The opportunities I have been given through volunteering has allowed me to open many doors, meet new people and learn about the operational side of the organisation, too.

The most impressionable part of my experience has been the friendly staff and fellow volunteers I work with. I have met so many people, and found their advice and friendship invaluable. Their dedication is something I aspire to and hope to emulate and carry on in the future.

To learn more about Markand’s role, please visit our Volunteering section. The Volunteers’ Week is an initiative of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.