Famous names will be speaking at a virtual event backed by charities in Coventry and Warwickshire – all with the aim of helping more people find volunteering opportunities.

Retired heavyweight boxer and mental health campaigner Frank Bruno, adventurer and broadcaster Ben Fogle, Radio 1 presenter Katy Thistleton and actor Brooke Kinsella – who became an anti-knife crime activist after her brother was murdered – are all taking part in the free Volunteer Expo Online on May 7 and 8.

The event is being hosted by Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland, and is being supported by the Coventry and Warwickshire Rotary Clubs.

Organisers say they hope to ‘build a legacy of generosity and community’ from the coronavirus pandemic by connecting ‘individuals and organisations from across society to inspire and celebrate those who love to give something back’.

Brooke Kinsella
Brooke Kinsella

A recent survey by the Together Coalition found an estimated 12.4 million people have volunteered during the Covid-19 outbreak, 4.6 million of whom did so for the first time.

The event will feature more than 60 virtual exhibition stands. Visitors will be able to talk to representatives from a range of organisations including Age UK, Dementia UK, Alzheimer’s Society, ShelterBox, Cancer Research UK, Barnardo’s, The Salvation Army, St John Ambulance, Motor Neurone Disease Association, RSPB, Lepra, Home Start and The Royal Air Forces Association and Army Cadets.

Meanwhile the line-up of speakers comprises celebrity campaigners, experienced volunteers and sector leaders.

Fogle, it is promised, will share ‘lessons on the natural world’ and ‘inspirational stories of personal perseverance’. He is best known for presenting programmes such as Animal Park and Countryfile, and has travelled to over 200 places around the world during his broadcasting career.

Brooke Kinsella, who played Kelly Taylor in EastEnders, endured tragedy when her brother Ben was stabbed to death in 2008. She later founded a trust in his memory.

As well as being a radio presenter, Katie Thistleton is a trained counsellor and holds ambassador roles with the charities Place2be and YoungMinds.

Among the other speakers are Catherine Johnstone CBE, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service; broadcaster Steve Brown who captained the Great Britain wheelchair rugby team at the London 2012 Paralympics; sisters Amy and Ella Meek, founders of Kids Against Plastic; Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations; Sanj Srikanthan, chief executive of disaster response charity ShelterBox and Matt Hyde, chief executive of the Scouts.

Amy and Ella Meek, founders of Kids Against Plastic
Amy and Ella Meek, founders of Kids Against Plastic

The final guest is Simeon Moore, a former member of a notorious Birmingham gang who now speaks out against the glamorisation of gun and knife culture.

Colin Winstone, Rotary spokesman for Coventry and Warwickshire, said: “The idea behind Rotary first launching this event back in 2019 was to highlight the amazing impact that volunteering makes to society. Little did we know that the world would be in a very different place a few years on.

“Although a lot in society has changed, many things possibly permanently, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown into sharp focus not only the need for volunteers, but the appetite people have to pull together in their community.”

“We hope that Volunteer Expo can be a part of that legacy and leave a positive impact going forward. It’s a great chance to learn more about how you can help.

“I find volunteering hugely rewarding and fun on a personal level, and would encourage people, whether a new or existing volunteer, to join us.”

Visitors will get the chance to participate in a programme of workshops covering subjects ranging from mental health and plastic pollution to disability-inclusive volunteering and digital fundraising.

See www.volunteerexpo.co.uk to find out more or for details of how to book a ticket.





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