We hope you enjoyed our previous Q&A blog with Andi Holmes as part of Volunteers’ Week. This time, we speak to Ali MacLeod about his experiences of volunteering with different projects.
What volunteering projects are you currently involved in (either with Scottish Rural Action or in your local community)?
At the moment I am a director of Applecross Trading Company which is involved in providing fuel and broadband for the community and visitors, as well as running the local public toilets. I am a director of our locally owned pier and for my sins have been for 17 years as well as treasurer. I am Chair of the Community Council for longer than I care to remember, maybe 8/10 years. Which involves taking minutes when the Sec is not around as well as chairing. As if this is not enough we have built our Community Hydro Scheme which was commissioned in December 2015 and I am director of AppleJuice the Community Company, set up and financed by a very successful share issue,secretary of the Inshore Fisherman’s Association. In the past it was the Township Grazings Committee, the Community Hall Committee, The Community Company director.
How many hours a week do you spend volunteering?
It is hard to say how many hours as they vary so much from week to week. For example I my take my fishing boat to Rona to take our local technician to sort out one of the many problems on the mast that helps deliver broadband to the Applecross Community, may attend a Fishing Conference for a whole day or have visited Scottish Ministers at Holyrood, attended The Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Fed AGM, compose emails to Highland Council about the state of our roads. I dip the tanks at the Filling Station and try to reboot when things go wrong with soft ware etc.Restart the Hydro when glitches appear in the system and go up to the Head to clean the screen. Doing the bills and accounts for the Applecross Pier Users Assoc takes a bit of time and lots of stress if I did everything on time. Have painted the local toilets. Some weeks up to 2 days and other weeks 2 hours.
What was you first volunteering role?
My first volunteering was in the early 90s when I helped set up one of the first Crofting /Forestry ReGen schemes, still running but had hoped that the money earned could have been used more community based rather than individually to the crofters. This was a followup to me applying for a grant to set up a scallop farm funded by the REP crofting diversification scheme.
What interests/motivates you to volunteer?
I honestly do not consciously think too much about it but know that as more and more services are being curtailed then communities have to take on services that were once taken for granted and provided for by the Council. Not sure I believe in altruism as when I volunteer and this results in a success such as, building and running of the Filling Station or Hydro Scheme I get a personal satisfaction that is not based on accolades received from people but a feeling of self achievement and worth. I love being involved and often am secondary when the LDO does most of the work or the local technician keeps the broadband going but needs a boat to get to where he has to. Local politics being what it is there is little power in Community Councils but, to give an example, fighting and gaining a weekly rubbish food collection from the booming service industry here, rather than fortnightly, I know is appreciated. Probably no one knows the phone calls that took place to achieve that but it really does not matter.
What has been the best experience you have had whist volunteering?
Not sure about this. Is it being a founder member of the Applecross Seafood and Music Festival which had bands such as Shooglenifty and Peatbog Faeries headlining? Maybe it was putting on bands such as Wolfstone at the old Community Hall. Keeping the Pier loyal and solvent over 17 years or helping build and finance the Community Hydro Scheme against many odds, I honestly do not know.
What advice/encouragement would you give to someone thinking about volunteering?
I would say do not take on too much, learn to say No, never believe you are indispensable, when it becomes a chore hand it over to some one younger or more enthusiastic and at all times keep your ego in check. Even when I have stressed about doing a volunteering job the enjoyment of achieving something at a Community level is a pretty good feeling