Volunteers have been increasingly important in responding to rising UK poverty in the last decade in the context of austerity and the retracting welfare state. Faith-based organisations in particular have played a vital role in this response but whilst there has been attention to how religious faith can motivate people to volunteer, this paper is one of the first geographical pieces to specifically focus on how volunteers’ religious faith is affected by volunteering. Inspired by the geographies of religion, it conceptualises faith as fluid and relational. This means faith cannot only be understood as a motivation at the start of volunteering, and therefore how faith is affected by volunteering needs to be understood. This paper is based on the experiences of volunteers at a participatory research project ‘Lunch’ responding to UK children’s holiday hunger. Engaging with volunteers’ journeys at Lunch drew out two dominant ways in which volunteers’ religious faith was affected: encouragement and challenge from volunteering at a faith-based project without explicit faith content, and secondly, the challenge of giving an unconditional welcome to volunteers and children at Lunch. Overall, I argue that whilst religious faith can motivate people to volunteer, this is not a unidirectional relationship because volunteers’ faith can also be challenged by their experiences which can not only affect their motivations and whether they will persist in volunteering, but can also fundamentally change their understanding of their religious faith.
Bibliographical noteNOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Geoforum. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Geoforum, 119 (2021)
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- Holiday hunger
- Food Poverty
- Participatory methodology