Religious Faith, Effort and Enthusiasm: Motivations to Volunteer in Response to Holiday Hunger

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The voluntary sector is playing an increasing role in responding to UK poverty, but there is a lack of attention in cultural geographies to understanding what motivates people to volunteer in this response. In particular, faith-based organisations – and therefore volunteers with religious faith – have been an active part of the voluntary sector response to poverty. However, little is known about what motivates people who have a religious faith to volunteer. Drawing on participatory and ethnographic research with a UK Christian charity working in the area of children’s holiday hunger, this article seeks to make three contributions. First, it moves beyond static notions of religious motivation which tend to characterise quantitative and more reductive qualitative approaches to volunteering in the social sciences. Secondly, it develops analysis of religious faith which foregrounds its relational, fluid and contested role in motivating people to volunteer, highlighting the importance of ongoing volunteering journeys alongside the initial motivations which led to a person starting to volunteer. Thirdly, by focusing on effort and enthusiasm the article seeks to break down the binary between faith-based and secular motivations and highlight instead the ways volunteers at the holiday hunger project experienced challenges in turning an initial motivation into action, and how ‘faith motivation’ itself is inherently relational and is co-constituted in place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-71
Number of pages15
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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Economic and Social Research Council, grant code GEOG SC3315.


  • faith
  • volunteering
  • geographies of religion
  • geographies of voluntarism
  • holiday hunger
  • participatory geographies

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