We’re constantly reminded about all the crazy things going on in the world – some of these things are good (new world records, Olympic athletes, world class musicians, scientists and creatives showcasing their skills and artistry) others are far from this reality (natural disasters, wars, horrific crimes and so on). Oftentimes it can feel difficult to navigate a world filled with so much darkness – sometimes you may even wonder if there’s any good left out there. I’m here to tell you that there is and that you can be a part of this. In previous posts I’ve touched on how acts of kindness can improve your wellbeing and outlook on life – today we’re going to look at this in more depth in the hopes that you’ll be able to make some positive change this summer.
Volunteering – the what:
Volunteering is any activity you do in which you are helping out a person or an organisation without being paid (or at least not monetary payment). Examples of organisations where you could volunteer are hospitals, charity shops, charities, food shelters etc. There are different roles that volunteers can take on and this results in a wide range of responsibilities which vary depending on the position you opt for. Some people might volunteer a few times a year whereas others might do it weekly. For operations like soup kitchens, they might only need volunteers during the winter months – other places such as charity shops will need volunteers all year round. Some volunteers work full time and are in charge of complicated operations but there are also plenty of roles for student volunteers who help out with much more straightforward, smaller tasks.
Volunteering – the why:
Why volunteer? Afterall you could use those hours spent doing unpaid labour to earn an income with a paid job. Although you might be tempted to opt for that option, there are plenty of reasons why volunteering could be a good activity for you to get involved with.
Much of the time (especially during adolescence) many of us feel like we’re searching for meaning. You might feel like you want to make a change or get involved with something that actually impacts people’s lives. Most teenagers are unable to go straight into their dream career so oftentimes the work we wind up doing for weekend/summer jobs is monotonous and incredibly dry (sometimes soulless). Knowing that you’re getting involved with a project that sets out to do some social good could be a solution. Not only will you learn more about humanitarian and philanthropic pursuits and the processes behind them, but you’ll also be able to derive some intrinsic value from doing something purely to benefit others.
In addition to the above, you might also be attracted to the social aspect of volunteering. No matter what kind of volunteering you do – you’re going to meet new people. Some groups are smaller than others but anyone and everyone can get involved in volunteering so it’s likely that you’ll encounter people from diverse backgrounds. One of the most important things you’ll notice is that everyone is passionate about whatever campaign it is that you’re involved with (because you’ve all willingly chosen to be there). This creates a really positive environment which can be incredibly fulfilling to be part of. You’ll develop a real sense of allyship and connect with other members, and you might even make some long-lasting friendships.
Volunteering – the how:
So, you’ve heard a bit about volunteering, and it sounds like something you’d like to get involved with but you’re not sure how. Not to worry – I’ve highlighted a few strategies you can implement to help get you started:
Whether you’re out and about on the Highstreet, scrolling through Instagram or staring at the noticeboard on the wall at school – if you make a conscious effort to keep an eye out for volunteering opportunities, you’re much more likely to notice them when you come across them. You could use the notes app on your phone to keep a record of any opportunities you see and are interested in and then apply to a few at a later date.
There is such a wealth of information available on the internet – it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll be able to find a placement if you spend a reasonable amount of time on Google. You could simply type up “Volunteering opportunities near me” or have a look on the websites of some of your favourite organisations to see if they have any roles available.
Sometimes the opportunity isn’t always explicit – you may have to do a bit of work in order to create one. Often, this method can lead to some of the most fulfilling and enjoyable experiences as it’s more tailored to you as an individual. There’s no real formula for this – you simply have to put yourself out there – but it’s always worth reaching out to people on LinkedIn if you’re signed up, sending an email or even visiting the shop/branch if they are local to you.
In summary, volunteering is one of the various ways in which you can get involved and make a difference (big or small) in society. It’s a great thing to do and can enhance you both personally and professionally. I’d recommend trying to get some experience over the summer or during the Christmas holidays but there will be plenty of opportunities available all year round.
Tiffany Igharoro is a sixth form student. One of her favourite pastimes is writing as it helps her organise her thoughts creatively and dynamically. She has won awards and prizes for poetry, academic and scientific writing and short stories. Recently, she won a nationwide historical essay competition that opened her eyes to the importance of how things are told, and the impact ordinary people have on the world. She studied art GCSE and believes there is something incredible about finding links between drama, art and maths.
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