What exactly is volunteering?
The dictionary definition is:
v.vol·un·teered, vol·un·teer·ing, vol·un·teersv.tr.1. To perform or offer to perform a service of one’s own free will.2. To do charitable or helpful work without pay
We had that talk about that thing at school today that you do. I don’t want to work in an old people’s home for an hour a week! I don’t have enough time! I have too much homework!
The only reason I do this is to get my DofE/because it looks good on my CV/to get a job
Well, there’s some truth in all of this! Yes, volunteering is about doing work without being paid, yes, it can be helping out in an old people’s home if you like and yes, it does look good on a CV and will help you to gain your DofE award.
But it is so much more then that!
Through volunteering, I’ve found that I’ve been able to bridge gaps. Gaps between classes, ages, races, gender, location… I live in a very sheltered area and have had a very sheltered life. I’ve attended good schools, live in a small village and have fantastic parent’s who’ve supported me for all 18 years of my life. I am very lucky. Through getting stuck in, I’ve met such a diverse range of people and I’ve learnt so much from them. It’s opened my eyes to new ways of living, new cultures, new lives. Without volunteering, there are numbers of people from all walks of life who I would never have come into contact with.
It has given me the chance to develop my skills and discover who I am as a person. Through volunteering, I have realised that I absolutely love working with children. I have also learnt that I have a talent for working with people, developing relationships with them and getting the best out of them. It has helped me to become more flexible, work around problems and think on my feet.
Volunteering has helped me develop personally, too. Going back to my old school the other week, people commented on how happy I looked, how confident I was and how much I’d ‘come out of my shell’. I do feel more confident! I also feel happier and have things to look forward to. I’ve got things that I’m in charge of and I can take control of. I can see immediate results, such as a child’s smile, but I can also see results that take a little longer to appear… a conference that I’m invited to, to give my opinion in, a 10-year-old looking after his younger sister and taking control of games, who at 6 was too shy to talk. It is so rewarding and so worthwhile.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It’s not perfect. Nothing ever is! Paper work can be boring, sometimes people don’t appreciate what you’re doing and can be rude to you or aggresive towards you. But overall, the benefits outnumber the rubbish bits by about a million.
‘Volunteering’ may have negative connotations for some people. Boring, no money, ‘putting up with stuff’, giving up your time, ‘old people’, sticky kids, litter-picking, the list goes on. But it’s so much more then that! It’s fun, smiles, finding something you’re passionate about, having new experiences, developing new skills, building up your CV, meeting new people, networking, finding other people who like what you like, giving something back to the community, investing in people and having a laugh!
What is volunteering? It’s the best decision I ever made.