Why Spending Time Is Better Than Money: 6 Reasons You Should Volunteer
The first time I wore the official title of “volunteer”, I was 15 years old. 10 years ago. As part of my Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award, I had to commit to a certain number of hours of volunteer work, among other things. The easiest way to get those hours? Find a local charity shop. And so it was that I found myself sorting through donations every weekend, and sometimes after school, in my nearest Oxfam shop.
Was it the most exciting thing I’ve ever done? No.
Would I have done it had I not needed to fulfil a basic requirement? No.
But did I enjoy the time spent with the people I met there? Did I learn from their stories? Was it a more worthwhile thing to spend my evenings doing than watching TV? Absolutely.
I’ve volunteered for 12 different organisations in various capacities over those 10 years — why do I keep going back?
1. Change someone’s life
By giving up as little as an hour a week, you can make a difference in somebody’s life who needs it. To put that into perspective, that’s 2 episodes of Eastenders that you can catch on iPlayer anyway, or 1 episode of #LoveAndHipHopWhichEverCityYouChoose (with ads). In my last job, we worked with City Gateway to deliver CV workshops and interview training to the young people from Tower Hamlets who used the service. Maybe you’re the only person in someone’s life that they can ask the questions they need answering to go and get themselves a job. You never know.
2. Contribute to your community
The idea of community is, let’s be honest, falling apart. 40% of Brits don’t know their neighbours’ names but I have a feeling that rises quite significantly in major cities — London especially. Doing something that has an immediate impact on the place in which you live is never a bad idea. I was involved in Orange Rock Corps, clearing and replanting community gardens in South London. They were an absolute mess before but now when I pass them, I smile — I did that.
3. Bring a new perspective
It’s no secret that companies with higher levels of diversity perform better than those with homogenous Boards/staff. Charities are no different and always welcome better representation for the people they serve. Different backgrounds, ages and genders bring different experiences and ideas. That can only be a good thing.
It’s not all philanthropy — there’s nothing wrong with something being mutually beneficial to everyone involved…
4. Great for the CV / Develop your skills
Volunteer positions are always brilliant to put on your CV. Maybe you worked on the till in charity retail, maybe you led a group at your church. You have willingly put yourself into an environment where you’ve been forced to learn quickly and on your feet, soaking everything in. An employer will read that as “tenacious, caring, responsible, great at time management and takes initiative”. What’s not to like?
5. That “Feel-good” Feeling
Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself! It’s that little selfish thing in all of us which makes it very difficult to do a completely selfless good deed. (See Phoebe desperately trying to prove Joey wrong about this in FRIENDS here) No matter — you should feel proud of what you’ve done!
6. Meet new people / increase your confidence
The two go hand-in-hand. You are not a volunteer in a vacuum. Even if it’s not a role working directly with the end-/service-users of the charity, chances are you’ll have to speak with at least one other person who is working/volunteering alongside. There you go — you met someone new. It can also make a great talking point at parties / on dates / in the Uber home.
Where can I find volunteer opportunities?
There are a plethora of worthwhile causes out there, crying out for help and experience!
Your workplace — Find out if your job has a partnership with a charity or runs an employee volunteering scheme. If not, find something you care about and see if you can set one up!
Uni — Most universities run a volunteer program for students where they take care of all the paperwork and have a curated list of partners they work with. If you’re a Warwick student, check out Warwick Volunteers.
Network — Ask around! If people in your circle don’t know about any opportunities, maybe you could all look together, who knows.
Where am I volunteering now?
Right now, I’m on the Board of Trustees for Tenteleni, a volunteer-run charity supporting the development of young people in the UK and Africa. I also do voice-over work for the Thomas Pocklington Trust who provide housing, care and support services for people with sight loss.
HCPT Group 651 takes Caribbean children with disabilities to Lourdes every Easter for a great experience. I cared for a child on a trip some years ago but I’m still involved in their annual fundraiser. This year, the Change A Life Gala is being held on October 22nd 2016 at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury — come down and support!
What has your experience been with volunteering so far? Leave it in the comments below!