One thing that is synonymous with the start of the new year is people doing something to better themselves and, in many cases, to better the lives of others. And even though this has been far from an ordinary year, we don’t expect this to change as we enter 2021. Luckily, there are plenty of causes for which any local resident can do some volunteering in Bristol.
In 2020, as can be expected, rates of individuals taking part in volunteering activities have risen sharply, which would be great news were it not for the fact that the need for new volunteers has also seen a significant spike this year. What this has created, however, is a mindset that we hope is here to stay.
Not only does volunteering and working for the good of others help your local community in a wide variety of ways, but there is also significant evidence to suggest that it works wonders for your mental health, additional to the physical benefits of getting you on your feet in a year where most of us have spent more than a fair share of our time in our homes. Additional benefits to volunteering include being able to meet new people in your local area and gaining transferrable skills and experience which will be useful, particularly if you’re a student or are at a fairly early stage in your career.
We have therefore compiled a list of what, in our opinion, are the best opportunities to consider if you’ve decided to spend some of your free time volunteering in Bristol. We’ve split them up into individual sections so, if you have a specific cause that you would like to help with and contribute to, feel free to use the table of contents below to skip to the relevant section. If you’re a student, you should also make sure that you check out our section of links for university students near the end of this post.
Volunteering in Bristol
One of the most popular causes to contribute to is environmental conservation. Environmental degradation and destruction is a problem felt within every country on earth to some degree, making it an important issue, not just to the UK and certainly not only in Bristol. That said, volunteering at the local level is the most accessible way to help and is indispensable in the wider fight to protect the environment. Here are our picks for the best environmental charities and non-profits with which you can spend your free time volunteering in Bristol.
The Conservation Volunteers
The Conservation Volunteers, or TVC, work on everything from planting trees and bushes and constructing paths and bridges, to clearing ponds, constructing benches and much more. With someone as influential in the environmental conservation community as TVC’s Vice President, Sir David Attenborough, referring to TVC volunteers as the “unsung heroes of the environment”, you can be sure you’ll be doing some real good with the time you invest volunteering in Bristol with The Conservation Volunteers.
Learn more about volunteering with TCV here.
Like The Conservation Volunteers, Woodland Trust is another well-known organisation that operates throughout the UK. In the UK, they have over 2,600 volunteers, who contributed to their work with a whopping 245,000 hours of volunteer work in 2018. They estimate that the value of volunteer contributions over the last year stands at £2.2 million. With such a well-trodden volunteer path and a volunteer-base this hard-working and devoted to the work the Woodland Trust does, you can be confident that this would be a fantastic place to volunteer in Bristol.
Find out more about what volunteer opportunities are available here.
Incredible Edible Bristol
Incredible Edible Bristol is an organisation that makes use of unused bits of land in urban areas to grow fruit and vegetables that are free for anyone to take and eat. They encourage people to plant and grow food in their back or front gardens, an unused corner of a park, street corners of even train station platforms. So far, they’ve planted over 40 free gardens in the Bristol area, which grow food that’s available for anyone to take.
Anyone who’s spent any amount of time at Bristol Harbour is likely to have seen some rubbish floating around there at some point. The volunteers at Plastic Free Way certainly have, and they’ve decided to do something about it. With help from the Bristol Harbour Office and Bristol Ferry Boats, volunteers litter-pick and clean up Bristol Harbour and the surrounding area.
Volunteering with animals
Volunteering with animals is something that appeals to many people, which means that there can often be some competition or even a waiting list for some volunteer opportunities in this field. That said, there are always opportunities for animal volunteering in Bristol for anyone willing and passionate.
Bristol Zoo Gardens
If you have a desire to do some volunteering in Bristol and you also love animals, the Bristol Zoo is probably one of the most obvious places to go. While some zoos have taken on a reputation for caring more about money than the animals, meaning that they would not be places that animal lovers would want to invest their time, the Bristol Zoo definitely doesn’t fall into that category. Their global conservation projects and the research they fund plays an incredible part in protecting these animals and any time that volunteers spend helping the work that the Bristol Zoo does will be time well spent.
Find out more here.
Wild Place Project
Wild Place Project was opened by the Bristol Zoological Society to allow families to explore and learn about different animals from around the world, all while using the money gained from this to further their conservation and research work. They have many volunteer roles available, from working in horticulture, landscaping and maintenance, to being a keeper to the animals or an education volunteer to help with delivering educational presentations and sessions to families and school groups.
Find out more about their volunteering programme here.
The Moggery Cat and Kitten Rehoming Centre
Perfect for any cat lover, The Moggery offers volunteering opportunities for anyone looking to spend some of their free time with the cats that they house. Full training is provided so you can be sure that you’ll develop new skills, so besides having a good attitude and work ethic, their only requirements are that you have had a tetanus vaccine and that you don’t mind stairs. Not having a cat allergy could also be useful.
Find out more here.
Bristol Animal Rescue Centre
With a name like Bristol Animal Rescue Centre, there’s little need to explain what the Bristol A.R.C. do. What does deserve mention, however, is that they’ve been doing it for over 130 years! In the years since it was established in 1887, the Bristol A.R.C. has helped, healed and rehomed over 14,000 vulnerable animals each year. To continue the great work that they do, they rely solely on volunteer work and funding from the community so this is a great cause to contribute to for any animal lover that wants to do some volunteering in Bristol.
Find out how to get involved here.
Mental health support volunteering
Mental health support is another sector to which volunteer work really is indispensable. Working to look after, help and care for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals is, in our opinion, one of the most important types of work you can do, particularly in years such as this one, where general mental health has suffered for a lot of people. Helping in any way you can to any organisation, including those listed below, would be an incredible help and of significant value to this underrepresented issue.
Alzheimers, which is the most common form of dementia, is a neurological disorder that will affect almost all of us at some point in our lives. Most of us have loved ones that are affected by it and many of us may be diagnosed in the future. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, around 9.9 million people worldwide develop dementia every year, reaching an estimated 130 million by 2050. Just as the need for funding and research in this field cannot be overstated, neither can the need for support of the organisations that work to drive progress, raise awareness and provide support for those affected. One such organisation is the Alzheimer’s Society in Bristol.
If you’re able to and are interested in providing some support for the Alzheimer’s Society, be sure to have a read through their website to find out how you can get involved, or contact them at [email protected].
Since it was started by a group of social workers and community psychiatric nurses in the mid-1980s, Second Step has provided a way out of hospital for individuals with mental health problems who previously would have remained in hospital due to a lack of another place to go. They help mental health patients take the ‘second step’ to recovery, out of full-time care and into a life of greater independence, and providing care for them there.
The mental health charity Mind doesn’t need much of an introduction. Their work around the UK is well known and has made Mind, to many, a household name. They provide important services and helplines to support people who need it, as well as campaigning to improve services and raising awareness and understanding of the widely misunderstood and stigmatised field of mental health.
Find out more about what you can do here.
Changes are a mental health charity providing peer support to anyone who needs it. Barriers to care, such as requiring a referral or a formal diagnosis from a doctor can, in some cases, stop people that need support from seeking and receiving it, which is why Changes Bristol doesn’t impose these. They are heavily reliant on the work that volunteers provide, with only one full-time and three part-time staff members, and around 40 to 50 volunteers at any one time. They are very experienced in dealing with volunteers so you can be sure that this is a great organisation to contribute to by volunteering in Bristol.
Read more about how you could help here.
Missing Link is a mental health charity that offers a safe environment in which vulnerable women can access support from female support workers, as well as gender-specific advice and help. Last year they had 75 volunteers that contributed nearly 3000 hours of volunteer work, with 100% of these volunteers ranking their time at Missing Link as ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’. As Missing Link focuses on helping women in particular, their volunteer programme is open exclusively to women interested in volunteering in Bristol.
If this is a cause you would like to help in your free time, check out their volunteer information page here.
Drug and alcohol rehabilitation
Another group of vulnerable, misunderstood and stigmatised individuals in society are those with addictions and dependencies on drugs and alcohol. Organisations in this field help such people to overcome their addictions, allowing them to live a better life, without being criminalised for something they often no longer control. Addiction is highly misunderstood within society, which can and has led to the mistreatment of individuals who suffer from it, meaning that educating and raising awareness of these issues is as important as helping the affected people themselves.
Bristol Drugs Project
One of the most influential organisations operating in this field is the Bristol Drugs Project, or BDP which, since the mid-1980s, has provided a free and confidential service to both the sufferers themselves and the families and friends of those suffering from addiction. Through this, they aim to minimise harm, promote change and tackle prejudices against vulnerable individuals such as those they help.
If you’d like to find out more about their volunteer programme, visit their website here.
Another particularly vulnerable group in need of help is the homeless and, as we enter the winter months, they need help more than ever. While many of the sections on this list, and therefore the work that the listed charities do, overlap in some way, the following list focuses on volunteering in Bristol to help the homeless.
Caring in Bristol
Caring in Bristol work to help Bristol’s homeless through various programs including their 365 shelter, the Bristol Nightstop which helps young people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as their annual ‘Caring at Christmas’ community project. They also run a ‘Get to know’ programme which educates people on common misconceptions about homelessness and how to help in the best way possible.
Find out more about what you can do to help here.
Help Bristol’s Homeless
The aptly named organisation, Help Bristol’s Homeless, has been working to help people get off the streets and into temporary and, later, permanent accommodation. They hold regular community events to raise awareness, as well as offering services such as form filling, temporary accommodation and emergency care. If you’re looking at volunteering in Bristol to tackle homelessness, and you have one of the skills that they require, be sure to reach out to them and offer your help!
To see what sort of help they currently need, please take a look at their website here.
Bristol Soup Run Trust
The Bristol Soup Run Trust is an organisation which organises as many as 20 different groups, which move around Bristol and offer support at different locations on a 28-day rota. Here, they provide food and drink, sleeping bags, toiletries, socks and many other things the homeless and otherwise vulnerable might need.
If you would like to get involved, by volunteering or by donating surplus food or supplies, find out how here.
Our penultimate section is one of particular importance both this year and into the next year. Medical volunteering is as necessary now as it has ever been and helping the NHS in any way is a great way to use your spare time to do good.
NHS University Hospitals Volunteers
With the NHS under significant stress due to coronavirus, any volunteer that could contribute to helping NHS staff with their day-to-day duties would be a great and massively influential help. NHS University Hospitals in Bristol are always looking for passionate and hard-working volunteers, so if you are in or are considering a medical career in the future, or you would simply like to help the health service many in this country rely upon, offering some of your time to helping the NHS by volunteering in Bristol is a great thing to do.
Find out more about the application form and process here.
For university students
If you’re a university student in the Bristol area, it’s also worth checking out volunteer networks and opportunities available through your university. Here are a few links where you can find more information on volunteering in Bristol through your university:
So there we have it, our favourite charitable causes and organisations that ask for contributions from anyone looking to do some volunteering in Bristol. If you’re read up to this point, we’ll assume that you’re seriously considering volunteering and helping your local residents in Bristol and we’re confident that on this list you’ll have found a great cause that aligns with your passions and desire to help. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for on this site, feel free to use this search engine to find other opportunities for volunteering in Bristol.
Of course, due to the number of charities operating in Bristol and the sheer number of issues they are working to tackle, there will be some great organisations that we have not included in this list. If you work for or have volunteered at an organisation that you believe deserves to be on this list, be sure to get in contact with us.