Volunteers’ Week 2016: Rachel’s story

Posted on the 25th May 2016


Meet Rachel Barton – born in Portland, Rachel has always had a keen interest in the island and wants to see it thrive. With over 20 years experience in community development and accessing funding for local projects she has been key in starting up many local organisations. She volunteers with a range of organisations and was made honorary Life President of the Portland Community Partnership  and she continues to be involved in much of the Partnership’s work including the Economic Vision and the Coastal Community Team. Rachel is also a My Community Champion and these are her life-long experiences of volunteering.

I was going to start with saying I have spent the last 25 years volunteering, but if I think about it, I actually started volunteering as a child! In school, along with friends, I would organise the fundraiser disco or sponsored walks etc. So I have probably been volunteering in one form or another for over 40 years.

Some volunteering roles have been quick, one-off, easy and enjoyable days such as the Island clean up and organising lots of events to raise funds for other organisations. I am also involved in some longer term voluntary activities that include being a Trustee of various organisations. All of the voluntary work has, however, been local as I am passionate about the island and Royal Manor of Portland which is where I was born and have always lived.  I have always had the support of my family and they too spend a lot of time volunteering.

Litter picking
Litter picking

I did spend a number of years working as the island’s Community Development Officer and a large part of that role was to encourage other people to volunteer and make a difference in their community.  I do believe that you can only really do that if you join in and experience it yourself. I have been lucky enough to work with many great volunteers who really do care about where they live and the issues faced by local communities. We formed new organisations including our first volunteer bureau, our first community run leisure centre and various area community groups caring for the environment and I am very pleased to say many of these are still operating today with volunteers leading!

I still have a very busy life, like many others juggling work, family time and volunteering but the benefits of volunteering are huge. Whilst I am very outgoing and enjoy a challenge it has been great to see others who are not so confident to come along and meet new friends, developing their confidence and skills through volunteering.

A recent project that I have co-ordinated  is the formation of our Portland Coastal Community Team. A successful funding application enabled us to tidy up one of our special open spaces at Chesil Cove. Most of the funding paid for contractors to come in and clear the scrub etc and reinstate the footpaths, but we also held two volunteer clean up days and we had a great response from residents. So if you do not have enough time to commit to a regular volunteering role remember you can get involved in “one off” events as these can make a great difference too.

Earlier this month I was delighted to receive an invitation with my husband to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in recognition of my voluntary work.  We went along and had a great day meeting many other people who volunteer in their own communities.

Volunteers week
Volunteers week

One of the things that does stick in my mind was an early meeting in the mid 90’s that I attended whilst working as the CDO. It was chaired by a senior officer from the local authority and had over 30 people in attendance with representatives from the police, health bodies, council and businesses along with three people from the voluntary sector. The Chairman felt that one person from the voluntary sector would have been enough and suggested that one person would stay and report back! We managed to explain that this would not work and pointed out that “Voluntary does not necessarily mean amateur!” I am pleased to say that things are much different now and volunteers are genuinely valued.

Main image: Rachel Barton and her husband at Buckingham Palace

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