Why I owe everything to volunteering
Hannah, I’m 27 and work for the NHS. In this post I want to share my thoughts
on volunteering and the impact it has had on my life.
I would not be where I am today without the opportunities that volunteering gave me.
Volunteering gave me hope
As a teenager, my health forced me out of schooling and all other aspects of normal life. After three years of socialising exclusively from my bed with my immediate family and one close friend I was a different person to the one I’d previously been.
My first experiences of volunteering were during this time. I found an online community of conservation campaigners and joined in some of their activity, picking back up what I had previously loved doing most – writing. Whilst connecting me with others during a time of isolation, it also allowed me to make a difference and carry on developing my writing skills which had long been shelved whilst out of education.
At the same time, I also began volunteering for a charity called Post Pals, sending regular ‘happy mail’ to seriously ill children and their siblings.
Volunteering gave me a purpose and made me feel a part of the world again. The roles I had found were flexible and allowed me to do something that mattered to me. Volunteering was, and still is, immensely important for my mental health.
The chance to improve my confidence
When I felt I was well enough, I approached a local charity about volunteering in person. I hadn’t really left the house in three years and it was a huge step for me. The charity was so welcoming. They took time to understand my limitations and invited me to look round.
I started volunteering for one hour, one day a week in their office. I did admin, answered calls and worked on promotional material. Once my hour was done, I would go up to Blackpool seafront with another volunteer and we would sit in a café and have a cup of tea together.
Looking back, I owe so much to this volunteering role. Without it I don’t know how I would have picked my life back up again. I started volunteering in December and by the following June I was volunteering 5 days a week. This included helping out at fundraisers and events on the weekend. I was a different person. I don’t think anyone would believe me now if I said I hardly spoke a word my first month. By the summer I was confidently giving speeches and talking to others about volunteering. In September, I was enrolled in full time education and still went to do my volunteering on free periods and through the holidays.
Not only has volunteering helped me grow in confidence and given me the biggest sense of achievement, it also helped me develop important skills which I now use in my career and in my personal ventures, such as my blogs.
The impact of volunteering
Volunteering is such a great way to flex your skills and test the waters in a career that you might be interested in. The possibilities are endless. You can find volunteer roles doing almost anything. People will often tell you ‘it’ll look great on your CV’ but I strongly feel this is still a small aspect. Volunteer doing something that you enjoy and do it because it matters to you.
Today, I still volunteer doing things that matter most to me. Volunteering continues to help me develop my writing skills and explore new subjects. For the past 4 years I have also enjoyed volunteering at music festivals and campaigning for better access to live music for disabled people. I volunteered through university (where it was always a welcome respite to writing essays) and since then, alongside full-time work in the NHS.
Everything I do today can be linked back to what I learnt whilst volunteering. I owe so much to the volunteer opportunities that I’ve had, not least my career. Thanks to volunteering I have my passions and my confidence, and it continues to help me find meaning in the things that matter.
Are you a volunteer? What would be your ideal volunteer experience? Has volunteering helped you? Let us know in the comments below!