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Simon Hughes MP opens Volunteer Centre Southwark’s new Elephant & Castle base

Southwark's volunteering bureau now has its own shopfront at the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre where members of the public can drop in to find out about getting involved with local charities and community groups.

Simon Hughes MP opens Volunteer Centre Southwark’s new Elephant & Castle base
Simon Hughes MP and Clive Pankhurst with Volunteer Centre Southwark staff and volunteers

Volunteer Centre Southwark was previously based in Hannibal House above the shopping centre but has now relocated to a shop unit on level 2 of the complex.

Simon Hughes MP was guest of honour at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

"You are hugely valuable to this community; in many ways you are the glue that holds the community together," the MP told staff, volunteers and representatives of community groups. "Long may it remain so and I wish this building – and all who serve in her – a very successful future."

Volunteer Centre Southwark chief executive Clive Pankhurst believes that the concept of volunteering is widely misunderstood.

"Volunteering has huge, huge potential for change," he said. "We see that every day with our supported volunteering project where we are helping people with mental ill-health to volunteer and get back on their feet, and we see it every day with our work experience project which is getting long-term unemployed people to volunteer as part of building their skills.

"There's so much more you can do with volunteering. A huge problem around volunteering is the sterotypes. Still people don't have a good idea what volunteering is: they think it's just something that retired people do. They don't appreciate the two-way nature of what volunteering is, and the huge diversity of things you can do as a volunteer.

"At this moment we are working with 900 local groups in Southwark who are asking us for volunteers to do 400 different things, which is a huge amount of stuff."

He added: "I think everyone in Southwark knows where the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre is so we are making it very easy for people to find out about stuff.

"What we want to do is plant lots of seeds so that as people walk past to catch their train or get their hair done or get their Colombian dinner [they will] stop and see what sort of opportunities there are."

Volunteer Centre Southwark is at unit 215/216 in the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre. Drop-in sessions are held on Tuesdays between 10am and 6pm and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm.

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