I Am A Volunteer, And You Could Be Too
One of the very best things you can do with your free time is to volunteer, because it benefits both you and the community around you. There are a myriad of reasons why you should volunteer, which are outlined here by volunteering.org.uk if you’re curious, but this article is going to focus on various personal accounts of volunteering. I think everybody knows that it’s a Good Thing To Do, but sometimes you need to read some real-life stories to figure out how this kind of thing can fit in with your life, and how volunteering can work for you.
For me, I decided to volunteer at my local Citizens Advice Bureau for a few reasons. The first was that I wanted to practice what I preached, so to speak, about social justice and equality — and I decided the perfect way to do that was to lend my time to an organisation that I believed in, and one that did good work for people that needed it the most. Secondly, while at university I want to get as much experience under my belt as possible (you gotta do what you can these days, competition for graduate jobs is damn tough!), and volunteering made perfect sense alongside the internship that I plan to undertake next summer. I love doing it, because it helps me with my organisational and interpersonal skills, it gives me a sense of achievement, and I get to work with some awesome people. So I guess you could say that I volunteer for selfish reasons too, and that’s okay.
I asked some of the wonderful Feminspire writers about their experiences with volunteering — they have a vast range of different backgrounds, different reasons, and different benefits from the things that they’ve chosen to do. Read on to see a sample of all the different ways you can get involved, and what might be in it for you!
Becky is involved with the Harry Potter Alliance online, working as the Appreciation Team Leader to communicate with donors. She says, “I fell in love with the causes we support. It’s just a really easy, unique way of fitting something so important to me into my life… The HPA has literally changed what I want to do with my life (being a writer became helping people/getting involved in social justice issues) and my overall happiness has grown so much over the three months I’ve been involved.”
Nikki volunteered for just over a week in El Novillero, Guatemala at the local elementary school, spending time in a beautiful country with wonderful people. “It opened my eyes to poverty and allowed me to learn and grow as a person as well as help the Guatemalans in the village with any needs they had for the school.” They built a basketball/soccer court in just seven days!
Bridget was a camp counselor at the Urban Native Center, working with 30 children aged 5 to 11. She says she felt like she could give back to her community, and had the time, so why not? “I got to meet so many amazing people and hang out with so many amazing little kids.”
Alisse volunteers at her local animal shelter – she feeds and bathes cats, cleans their cages and files adoption applications. She’s a total animal lover, and especially loves cats. She says, “it allows me to connect with the local community and spread awareness about stray animals, spaying/neutering, etc., as well as developing professionally in a leadership role.”
Abbey volunteered at Gisenyi College in Rwanda, as part of a cultural exchange programme. “It wasn’t just us building things for them, giving things to them. We all taught each other. We took some Biology lessons, stocked their library with textbooks, introduced new sports to the school. But they taught us about genocide, how to sing and dance and drum like them. We made friends.”
If this article has inspired you to volunteer, the best way to go about it would be to contact an organisation directly through their website. Most places will want to interview you to make sure you’re a good fit for them and vice-versa, so make sure you choose an organisation that you feel strongly about and truly want to give back to. Read up on their background, and what they do, before you make a decision on whether to apply. Remember that they’ll be looking for hard-working and dependable people that can bring something new to their dynamic, much like a paid job. Good luck and have fun, whatever you choose!
Written by Kaya Harridge