Volunteering can be defined as ‘to do something for other people willingly and without being paid to do it’ (Cambridge English Dictionary). Being able to contribute to a social cause is very rewarding and you have the power to create a lasting positive impact on others and yourself. It is an important part of my life and I have outlined below just some of the ways in which I have benefitted.
Volunteering is very rewarding as there are so many opportunities to help others. Whilst volunteering at First Days Children’s Charity, I felt satisfied knowing the time I had spent sorting through clothes donations and cleaning second-hand shoes in the warehouse meant that they could be accessed by those who needed them most. During lockdown I felt a sense of achievement as I knew I was making a positive difference by attending calls with isolated older individuals for the charity Kissing It Better, and felt fulfilled knowing I had made their day a bit brighter. After fundraising, it feels very rewarding knowing you contributed in some way to a total fund and in turn are making a positive difference to people’s lives.
Volunteering can be very entertaining as there is often always something you can do to help out so you are kept busy. I found working at the cash point during a First Days fundraiser sale both a fun and new experience. I enjoyed interacting and chatting with the customers, adding up the sum of the items they were purchasing, and using a card reader. It was great to work with other volunteers as we each had different stations; one person would pack the items into bags, another would put on price labels and someone else would be hanging up clothes to be sold on the shop floor. Working together collaboratively to achieve a target is very satisfying. My love of Netball has also offered me the chance to volunteer as I sometimes help to umpire at training sessions which is good fun and means players can enjoy quality gameplay.
You often get to meet new people of a variety of ages and backgrounds (whether virtually or in person) which can help you have a new outlook on the world. Whilst volunteering at Kissing it Better, I found it very insightful to hear stories from care home residents about their childhoods, and this reminded me how rich and unique people’s lives are. It was beautiful to hear residents singing and sharing their passions and getting to know other volunteers is lovely, knowing we are united through our voluntary work. I also enjoyed sharing my poetry which I wrote out and decorated and sent to some care homes during lockdown alongside reading stories via zoom which allowed me to connect with the elderly residents. Volunteering can give you the opportunity to share your passions and volunteering locally helps strengthen a sense of community.
Volunteering for a charity and helping with fundraising or raising awareness allows you to help others. During the First Days fundraiser, the money raised meant more people could access essentials such as school uniforms, toiletries and baby clothes. I am looking forward to raising money for CAFOD as part of the CAFOD Young Leaders programme, as I know this will help so many vulnerable people across the world.
There are so many valuable life skills that you can learn through volunteering. Communicating with your fellow volunteers is important to ensure everyone is on the same page. Leadership and teamwork can be developed as you and other volunteers work together to acheive a common goal such as cleaning a local area - everyone’s contribution is important and valued. Another skill you learn is organisation / planning skills, particularly if you are organising an event to fundraise or raise awareness. Problem solving is also a key skill if something unexpected were to happen - maybe some posters have not been printed or a deadline has not been met and you need to adapt and come up with a creative solution which is a valuable life-skill. In my experience at First Days, there have been clothes unsuitable for donation, but by using textile recycling instead of throwing clothes away, this has been solved.
Volunteering has enriched my life a great deal and I encourage you all to experiment and find the right volunteering opportunities for you. You will more than likely gain far more than you give.