Volunteering… What’s In It For Me Though?
Hmmm bit of a harsh question. One that maybe even cancels out the whole point of what we think volunteering is all about. But in our hectic time-poor modern lives; it can be really hard to carve out time for others, without being paid, unless we feel it’s going to be of some benefit to us too.
That’s ok! Drop the guilt. I’ve interviewed several volunteers for this piece and every single one of them told me the feel-good factor you get from volunteering can’t be matched. Here are five ways volunteering could rock your world.
1. You might make some mint new mates! I have quite a few friends who volunteer for Contact the Elderly https://www.reengage.org.uk/volunteer/new-volunteers/ Not only have they become good friends with the other volunteers locally, they have formed close bonds with the older people they are supporting. During the pandemic older people are more isolated than ever, so lots of charities are setting up safe socially distanced ways to volunteer such as becoming a telephone befriender. If you enjoy a gas on the phone as much as I do this might sound very appealing!
2. You might find your true passion! Volunteering is a great way to try out something new without the pressure of changing your whole career straight away. Helen, who I interviewed told me that volunteering in schools gave her the confidence to retrain to become a teaching assistant. Think of volunteering as trying on skinny jeans… if they don’t suit you you don’t have to wear them forever… but you might just find they’re the best fit you’ve ever had.
3. You will learn about what your town or city is really like. It’s so easy in our little bubbles to forget that children might be living in poverty or people might be sleeping rough just around the corner from us. We can only effect change if we know what’s going on. Charities like Centrepoint https://centrepoint.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/ work with young homeless people and are always interested in hearing from people of all backgrounds who might be able to offer support.
4. You will undoubtedly learn some new skills. I spoke to Jane who volunteered at her local foodbank https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-involved/volunteer/ and was amazed by the way it honed her organisational skills and helped her “think outside the box.” Even though she had a fairly high-powered job Jane realised she had got a bit “stuck in a rut”. The experience of volunteering encouraged her to reorganise the way she managed her team at work. Jane says it also gave her the chance to use social skills that she didn’t know she had; “There’s something really important about how you interact with people who use foodbanks. Making sure they have their dignity and feel valued is so key.”
5. You will set a fantastic example to your kids! We are all guilty of nagging at our kids to think of others’ needs before their own, but it’s too easy not to lead by example! Giving up some of your time, no matter how little, shows your kids you mean what you say. Even better; how about getting the kids involved? Talk to them about a cause they care about then research how you could help. Operation Christmas Child https://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/get-involved-occ/ and similar projects are great to help engage youngsters… although you may have to then answer some Santa-related questions: be warned!