In 2000, a volunteer programme for young people between the ages of ten and sixteen was started. The number of young people volunteering on Saturdays and school holidays has now risen to over thirty, while our waiting list for places has over twenty names on it and opportunities to volunteer have become very difficult to get.
Whilst at the museum they work on our hands-on activities, demonstrating to visitors how mummification was performed or how the weighing of the heart ceremony had to be undertaken by all dead ancient Egyptians. They also give visitors guided tours. They are encouraged to interpret the collection themselves and give visitors a unique museum experience. Some visitors come to the museum to see the volunteers, not the collection!
Why is volunteering at the museum so popular and what benefits do the young people get from volunteering?
Firstly most young people are fascinated by Egypt and Egyptology and the chance to learn more about it is one that young people don't often get until they study the subject at 'A' level or in university. The young people at the museum are trained by other young volunteers who 'know the ropes' and have been volunteering for some time. They are also trained by Egyptology undergraduates at the university who want to expand their CV's to show that they have written and taught modules.
The young people also get accreditation for their volunteering through the Children's University, Swansea. For each hour they volunteer they receive one credit. The Children's University hold an award ceremony every June where the young volunteers receive bronze, silver or gold awards, depending on how many hours they have volunteered. Our young people will be among the first in Swansea to gain gold awards. This is an incentive to all young people to take part.
Perhaps a more important reason why the museum is such a magnetic choice are some of the other small incentives we give the youngsters. We have a Christmas party every year which the children help organise themselves. They dress up as Egyptians or any other characters they like. They have pizza delivered to the museum and we have a travelling zoo visit with Tristan the parrot and Bindi a Wallaby with one eye! All volunteers get birthday cards on their
birthdays and their mums bring cakes in on the weekend after their birthday.
The children come from all social backgrounds and some of them have disabilities. Many travel over forty miles on a Saturday morning to get to us. They all support each other in their volunteering and the older young people are encouraged to help the younger or newer volunteers. It is without doubt the friendliness of the volunteers and the camaraderie here that makes the museum such a magnet for young people. The pizza helps as well!
By Stuart Williams.
Reprinted from Turn Your Organisation Into A Volunteer Magnet, 2nd edition (ed. Fryar, Jackson & Dyer) 2007
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