Firstly, I want to say that my only regret in life is that I did not volunteer when I was younger. It should have been encouraged while I was at school and I wish my parents had talked about it more. I could have been aware of the options of volunteering and been told how it benefits our communities, us personally and professionally.
It is going to be a tough ride in the world of work for quite some time after this Covid-19 pandemic, so I want to encourage you; young people and school leavers to take this opportunity to volunteer.
It will help you prepare for the world of work and it will bring you joy knowing that you are helping your communities and making a difference, I’m sharing what I wish I had been told at your age.
Follow your passion
You can choose to volunteer in an activity or environment that you feel passionate about helping or changing, you could volunteer in a role because you want to make an impact and there are many opportunities out there that helps solve local and national problems.
Are you passionate about improving homelessness? Are you passionate about the environment, keeping our beaches clean, educating people about recycling? Are you passionate about sports, exercise, and healthy living?
Whatever your passion may be, volunteering offers an opportunity to make a change and make a real difference. I have loads of passions, I really want to make a difference in the world and volunteering makes me feel like I am.
Right now I am passionately driven to end loneliness in older people and I’ve since being in lockdown I’ve joined Re-Engage as a call companion, knowing that I am going to be helping someone having a better quality of life, just by having regular conversations makes me feel good.
We have a basic human need to connect with others and such connection has a positive impact on our mental health. There’s no doubt that when volunteering you meet more people and make new friends who share similar passions and beliefs. This can lead to really great, rewarding friendships and friendship groups.
Lots of voluntary work involves connecting with customers, the public, vulnerable groups of people, networking with people in other organisations, it is really an endless list of connections. This can help improve communication skills and build confidence in meeting new people.
I have met so many wonderful people who have shared their knowledge and experience with me, it is a skill set which has helped me do my actual day job better too. These connections could also lead to work opportunities in the future and quite often this work is in something you would passionate about.
Learn new skills
We learn and develop a huge amount of skills whilst volunteering, with so many different opportunities giving us the chance to learn about almost anything and most charities and voluntary groups provide fantastic training too.
I know because in one volunteer role I was given the task of running a social media campaign, something that I had never done before and knew absolutely nothing about. If we think about the current job market, where our attention is and how we communicate now, this skill will be an asset to me in the future.
So I embraced the challenge, I completed online training to gain specific digital knowledge (Future Learn is great for this) and had some training and guidance from my experienced colleague. After that I ran my first ever social campaign.
It was great, I learnt how and why to create content suitable for our audience, I learnt how to use a design programmes and created digital assets, how to use a social media management programmes and how to measure the success in order to improve things for next time.
It was a great practical way to learn new skills and most of all I really enjoyed the experience, I felt so excited about creating something that will help our cause.
I’ll always remember how scary it feels going into a new job, meeting new people, or having an to go to interview. I wish that I had volunteered when I was younger because it would have helped prepare me and given me confidence for all of that.
I have recently met some wonderful young volunteers and I have been truly amazed by their confidence. Most of them started by supporting community events or sporting activities when they were 15 and 16, but have gone on to do so much more.
What struck me is their reason for continuing to volunteer is the benefit that it has on improving their confidence which is giving them a great advantage in the world of work.
It’s worked for my confidence too, I’ve always had an issue with public speaking, it scared me to the point that I would forget what I was supposed to say and the wrong stuff would come out of my mouth.
But, when I feel passionate about a cause I believe in, it has become easier for me to stand up in front of a group or room full of people and talk or present. This has also transferred over to my other day job where I’m far more confidence in delivering training days and talking to our team, and my boss has been impressed.
Help your community
It was fantastic to hear how many people signed up to the government volunteer scheme throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it truly amazed me.
But I cannot help but think ‘isn’t this how it should be all of the time?’ Shouldn’t we all do our bit to help all the time not just in a pandemic? We have proved that people genuinely care in our communities and seen an endless amount of kindness. It would be great if it paved the way to make volunteering a more common practice.
Imagine if those people had not stepped up, imagine if the millions of vulnerable people unable to leave home were left without support to get their food or medication. Imagine if the amazing people in our communities hadn’t stepped up and organised community food banks delivering to those living in poverty, and all those Facebook groups activated to help our neighbours in need, didn’t exist.
This pandemic has highlighted what our neighbourhoods and communities could be like, and I would love to see this continue.
As the virus goes away and focus turns else where it is worth remembering there are charities and organisations that rely on volunteers to support their efforts, I hope we’ll have the opportunity to use the same energy to continue to make a difference, that we do now.
So yeah, I guess volunteering has been the most valuable and rewarding thing that I have done and I will continue to do it for as long as I can, I just wish that I had begun sooner.
If anyone would any guidance on volunteering in Wales, the WCVA’s website is full of information and volunteer stories. Here at miFuture I’m happy to chat with anyone who might need some help finding an opportunity suitable for them.
Claire, Volunteer Mobiliser