“Somebody comes in and gives you a book. You have a look at it and put in on the shelves or online.

“Somebody else buys it – and halfway across the world somebody goes to school. How cool is that?”

This is how Lynne Wallace sums up the value of volunteering. Two years after retiring from the University of Cumbria library, she is now working with books again – as a volunteer at the Oxfam bookshop in Carlisle.

Lynne, from Belah in Carlisle, is 68 and has been there for four years now, doing a few hours per week.

“I missed books and I missed colleagues – though I don’t miss the actual work!” she recalls.

“I’ve been around books all my life, and I’d always wanted to work in a bookshop. You get what you want eventually!”

So she enjoys it. But the real job satisfaction comes from knowing the good it can do – the knowledge that someone’s life is being improved.

“We live in a disorderly world where individuals feel that they can’t do a lot.

“But they can do something to give a little bit of help to someone, somewhere.”

A the moment there are not enough people like Lynne. Charities and other community organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit people prepared to give up a few hours of their time to work for free.

That need for more recruits is being highlighted during Volunteers’ Week, which runs until Sunday, June 12. It aims to explain what volunteering involves, present the options and encourage more people – men and women, young and old – to consider it.

As part of the event, volunteering fairs are being held in Cumbria on Thursday and Friday, where organisations in need of volunteers will explain the opportunities they have.

Thursday’s takes place at the Harbour Youth Project in Swingpump Lane, Whitehaven, between 10.30am and midday, while Friday’s is at the Crown & Mitre Hotel in English Street in Carlisle, between 1pm and 2.30pm.

They’re being run by Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service. It matches up volunteers and their skills with the charities or organisations that need them.

There are currently 50,000 volunteers in the county, doing 45,750 hours of unpaid work every week.

That equates to an extra 1,220 full-time staff. If they were paid the average hourly wage they would cost more than £28.5 million per year.

Yet Judith Holmshaw, volunteer support officer with Cumbri CVS, finds the demand for volunteers is now overtaking the supply of them.

“We definitely need more,” she says. “A lot of charities are struggling to get people to come forward.

“People are juggling a lot more. With the economy as it is, they are working longer hours or not retiring as early as they used to.

“People have more caring responsibilities – grandparents looking after grandchildren and so on. It’s more difficult now to get them to give up their spare time.”

However volunteering can mean more than working in a charity shop or rattling a collecting tin.

“There’s a much more diverse range of options these days. There’s driving, or providing emergency accommodation for a homeless young person. We need volunteers at the coroner’s court, supporting families through that process.

“There’s running a breakfast club for people with drug or alcohol issues. Volunteers go to prison cells to check on the welfare of detainees.”

They can be almost any age – though some roles are only open to over 18s – and Judith finds they come with various motivations.

“We get people who want to gain some experience for their CV. Or you might have a retired nurse who wants to go on working in a caring role.”

For some it’s the chance to do something completely different. “We’ll get high-level managerial people who want a change from the day job.

“For instance, a bank manager might do some shopping for an old person.”

There was also an elderly woman who lost her husband and needed a new focus. “She told us: ‘If I hadn’t come to you I wouldn’t have my life back.

“Now I’ve got a sense of purpose, to get out of the house for.’”

John Hughes Some people feel a certain obligation to help others. John Hughes, from Dufton, is 69 and began delivering meals on wheels in his area 15 years ago.

For the past three years he has also organised the service. “I’ve had a very lucky life and it’s time to give something back,” he explains.

“When you live in a rural area like this and you’ve got a bit of free time like I have, you have a kind of social responsibility.”

Meals on wheels were one of the services Cumbria County Council had to drop when its budget was slashed. So the volunteers now deliver meals across a wide patch, taking in villages such as Kirkby Thore, Long Marton, Milburn and Temple Sowerby as well as Dufton.

And it’s not just dinners they provide. It’s also company.

“We offer social contact. That’s most important, and it’s something that councils can’t do. If there’s a problem we are there, we are able to notify other agencies.”

He adds: “Most councils are more concerned with the urban settlements and concentrate their resources on places with the largest populations.

“So volunteers are really needed. Without them a lot of people in rural areas would suffer.”

There are 10 meals on wheels volunteers in Dufton and John says: “We’ve got a great team. But there are lots of things younger people can get involved in.

“People talk about the friendly community spirit in our villages. But that community spirit can only exist if there are people prepared to put into it.”

Anwar Meah One younger volunteer is 28-year-old Anwar Meah. When floods ravaged Cumbria Anwar was one of the volunteers who helped out.

Anwar was born in Bangladesh but came to Cumbria at the age of one. He grew up in the Stanwix area of Carlisle, went to Trinity School and after studying at Aston University he chose to move back to Cumbria, and works for Amec Foster Wheeler energy consultants in Whitehaven.

As a child Anwar had often visited the country of his birth and remembers: “There were a number of serious floods in Bangladesh, but never when I visited.

“I always wanted to be able to do something, to help directly. It was always frustrating that I couldn’t.”

In the intervals of university and working he’s done voluntary work in Ghana and Morocco, through the charity Engineers Without Borders. There’s been building houses, water filtration schemes and teaching English and science.

Then floods came to Carlisle. Stanwix was high and dry but he points out: “Trinity School was flooded. I saw the hall I used to walk down, and the classrooms I used to study in, covered in water.

“I thought: ‘What am I going to do, just sit and watch it on the telly?”

A warehouse in Fusehill Street was opened where donations of food, clothes, toys and other items were stored and Anwar worked there, dealing both with those bringing goods in and those receiving them.

“There were people who were quite upset, who didn’t know what to do. Some of them just wanted someone to talk to, to get some peace of mind.

“I grew up in Carlisle and it was always very happy, very positive. To be able to help other people here, and know I’m making a difference, has been great.”

Now he’s looking for more volunteering opportunities, of all kinds. Conservationists carry out ongoing work removing the invasive Himalayan balsam plant that grows rapidly along lake and river banks, crowding out native species, and Anwar hopes to help with that in the evenings or at weekends.

“There’s always something to do.”