Following International volunteers day last week (5 December), Sue wanted to share her story on why volunteering matters to her.
Over the years I’ve dipped my toe into the waters of volunteer work on several occasions. Why? Because I keep coming back to the principle, ‘I need to give something back’ of which I’m a strong believer. I often find it very easy to say “I’ll volunteer to help someone” when there’s a national disaster, a short-term fix that’s needed or I see a request to help out on a project. Then, once the activity is completed, I go back to my life and fail to continue to volunteer consistently and regularly. I’ll trot out the old worn excuses of “I haven’t got the time” or “I’m too busy,” but I know that I can always find the time if I prioritise what’s important to me. I find it hard to keep volunteering but I know that it matters.
During 2020, my need to ‘give something back’ has increased exponentially and I’ve been volunteering regularly (telephone befriending and chatting to people in my local community who would otherwise be on their own with no-one to talk to). The challenge for me is that in 2021 once the current pandemic abates and we start to carry on with our lives how do I continue to offer my help voluntarily? Working part-time or full-time to earn money to live is always a priority, and spending time with my family is a given, but if I build volunteering into my top three priorities, there’s a greater likelihood that I’ll carry it on and not let it slide as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an ‘essential.’
If I’m honest, deeply honest, I find that I struggle to volunteer for a project if I believe that the skill I need is one that I use in my everyday work life, as I want my volunteering to not feel like work, even though I love my work. I believe that my volunteer work should help me as well as others so I tend to focus on stuff that will either help me learn a new skill I want to know more about or is an existing skill that I don’t currently utilise. For example, I work in Marketing, but I love figures and accounting, so for several years I volunteered as a business mentor for The Prince’s Trust supporting one of their clients to set up a new hairdressing business. Again, a few years later I volunteered as a secondary school governor with a focus on finance. Now that was an immensely steep learning curve but very rewarding for me… and for the school as well I hope!
If I can encourage anyone to start volunteering or, if you’ve been volunteering for a while, continue rather than give up, here are a few tips from me:
• find something you’re passionate about and then look to match this with a volunteer role
• if you’re eager to acquire a new skill, find a voluntary role that will help you learn at the same time as giving back
• focus on why volunteering matters to you and agree with yourself what time you can commit to volunteering – there’s no right or wrong, just what you’re happy with
In addition, our government website has lots of useful ideas and links to key voluntary organisations.
What’s your volunteering story? #volunteer #giveback