8 August 2016
Andy Kirby tells us why it’s important for LGBT civil servants to use their volunteering days to give something back to the LGBT community.
If you’re an LGBT civil servant, you should think about how you can use your volunteering days to benefit your community.
I’ve been an active volunteer with an LGBT charity – Gay Men Fighting AIDS – for a number of years. One year I used my volunteering days to learn to be smoking cessation facilitator. The charity paid for the training and I did not have to take annual leave. This was among the most rewarding work I have ever done as people double their life expectancy if they stop smoking and to be a part of that was fantastic. Another year I attended an HIV conference and met other volunteers and learned about the latest research.
I have also helped others to do the same. When one of my fast streamers joined a group to carry out a corporate objective raising money for a worthy cause I like to think that my suggestions encouraged them to choose Stonewall, a charity that – amongst other things – helps homeless LGBT people find appropriate accommodation.
This year I am volunteering for the Speak Out project at the London Metropolitan Archive. We have been identifying the LGBT content in this huge pan-London archive in Clerkenwell, and adding to it by collecting oral histories in the LGBT community. I have been interviewing people including civil servants, and helping develop an exhibition and a website showing the LGBT voices in this fantastic collection. I was trained in writing the labels that sit beside each exhibit explaining it to visitors.
Most challenging was captioning the interrogation of a man who called himself Eleanor in 1395, who had sex with women as a man, and with men as a woman for money. The facts of his or her narrative; the questions it raises about sexual identity, sexuality and sex work; and the story of its suppression in official catalogues was hard to compress into 120 words. I’ve applied that skill at work. You can see how well I did at the London Metropolitan Archive 40, Northampton Road, EC1R 0HB until 24 August.
That’s just a taste of how I use my volunteering days; but there are many others. A friend of mine volunteers to go into schools describing what is like to be an out lesbian in the Civil Service, serving as a positive role model for young people making real time career decisions.
So do think about how you can use your volunteer days each year to support your community. It is fun and fulfilling.