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The Beauty of Volunteering

Did you know it's #VolunteersWeek this week? Well, it is! The first week in June is dedicated to celebrating volunteers across every sector all over the country. Mary Waters shares her thoughts on why volunteering is a fruitful and rewarding contribution to your community.

There are many misconceptions about volunteering. It’s not all charity shops and fundraising; in fact they are only a very small part of volunteering. There are a huge number of people who make up a crucial and sometimes life-saving army of volunteers. The reasons for volunteering are as numerous as the number of people who do so and can be done at any age.

So, what are some of those reasons?

  • Belief in a cause - Many people volunteer to help support something they feel passionate about. Donating money is great but donating time can be just as important. For example, donkey sanctuaries need help with the practical side of their cause and so do organisations that help vulnerable people. Scouting would not exist without volunteers.

  • Keeping brain and body fit and active - Whether you are in paid employment or not, participating in something other than your normal everyday activities can make that brain think about something different and, health-wise, must be preferable to spending your spare time looking at a TV screen.

  • To build on your C.V. - Recently made redundant? Looking for a new position? To give yourself the greatest chance of new employment, you can build your skills and experience and show potential employers that you aren’t the type of person to sit around and do nothing to enhance your future employment prospects. In some cases, I have known it to lead to employment within the organisation supported. That obviously cannot be guaranteed. However, should a vacancy arise, your commitment as a volunteer could tip the balance in your favour to fill that gap.

  • Pass on skills and experience – It can be hugely satisfying to pass your skills and knowledge on to others. Never underestimate how useful it can be to show someone basic household budgeting, cooking or parenting skills. There are people out there desperate for support and it is pretty amazing to be the one to watch them build confidence and self-esteem.

  • To make friends - Having worked within the voluntary sector for a number of years I have seen at first hand many friendships that have started with volunteering and progressed to become important, valuable and long-lasting relationships. In some instances, this has even led to marriage. I am not advocating volunteering as a form of dating agency - just saying, it does happen. Whatever your reason for volunteering I have to warn you - you will make friends.

  • Employer support - Many employers now enable employees to volunteer as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. You may find yourself helping a charitable organisation using the skills you use at work, or, you may do something completely different.

Don’t know what you can offer? The list is endless but as a brief guide:

  • Trustee/committee member

  • Mentoring

  • Befriending/Caring

  • Support at public events, e.g. sports, festivals

  • Secretarial/administration work

  • Driving people to hospital appointments, or people with special needs to day centres/schools

  • Practical things like gardening, decorating

  • Don’t forget those charity shops and fundraising events! Don’t have the time?

That’s the beauty of volunteering. You decide how much time you can give. A warning, this is a commitment and so you should be sure you can give this time and not let people down. A charity shop would not last long if volunteers only turned up if they felt like it and letting down people you are mentoring or befriending, without good reason, can be damaging.

You can take holidays of course but this should be pre-arranged as you would with a paid job. You should be paid for out of pocket expenses such as travel costs.

About the Author:

Mary Waters is a writer based in Calne, Wiltshire. She has had short stories, poems and articles published and her kindle book, 'Mouse', is available on here!

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