Saturday 5 December 2020 will see the world celebrate the 35th annual International Volunteer Day. A day to recognise those who donate their own time, for no financial reward, for the benefit of others.
This year’s theme is no surprise, with millions of people world-wide volunteering either in a medical or local community capacity, it’s COVID 19. The global pandemic has certainly brought out the best in volunteers. Whether it’s retired doctors and nurses helping in hospitals, or neighbours shopping for those who are unable to, this International Volunteer Day has a lot to celebrate.
NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) provides a list of a reasons why people choose to volunteer, and how it can benefit them. One of the things we love about it is that volunteering has been proven to have positive impacts on both mental and physical health.
Amongst other side-effects, choosing to volunteer can improve self-esteem, create a sense of purpose, and improve your skills and knowledge. In this blog, Hey Me team members, Emily and Gemma, share some of their own experiences with volunteering, including how they started volunteering, why voluntary work is important to them, and some of the key things that they have learnt.
My journey with volunteering started when I became a Cub Scout Leader through happenchance at 14 years old (I was asked to support a friend’s brother who was being bullied). I soon found that I loved working with children and stayed in Scouting for 7 years. I later volunteered for a youth theatre group at York Theatre Royal, then for the Education department at Opera North.
My volunteering journey has seen me work at a Zoo, install solar panels in Nepal, and work on a game reserve in South Africa. More recently, I have been volunteering as a forum member for IICSA (The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse), and I contribute to a Community Radio Station, ELFM (East Leeds FM).
Why is volunteering important to me?
Volunteering has given me the opportunity to meet and connect with people that I would not have had chance to meet in other walks of my life. At a young age I was working with a team of adults to run Scouting meetings and camps. This allowed me to develop skills to communicate with new people, no matter their age or background.
I have also had the chance to develop my understanding of the lives of others, through travelling to new countries, working with different populations, and making new friends. In my role with ELFM I recently contributed to a show where we worked with a team of writers from Germany, and I read some of their work live on air.
Volunteering has allowed me to work in settings that I may not have had the opportunity to in my career. I have been able to volunteer on a range of projects, including those that did not have the budget to pay a team of staff. This allows volunteers to provide support in situations where it may not otherwise be available.
I have felt valued for my efforts when volunteering, and I can see vast improvements in my own self-confidence. By giving my time for something other than money, I have found a different reward for completing voluntary tasks.
Lastly, in recent years, volunteering for IICSA has provided me with the opportunity to give back to a community that has helped me. This work has been extremely beneficial for my own health and wellbeing. It is humbling, and wonderful, to know that my contributions as a forum member may also be helping others.
Growing up, both my parents displayed a love of volunteering – their passion inspired me, and I enjoyed helping them and meeting new people through their voluntary work.
Around nine years ago, I started my own volunteering journey when I moved to a new village.
Moving to a new village was daunting. Both my children were not old enough to go to school, so there was no opportunity to meet other parents at the school gates, etc. So, I signed my daughter up to attend the village playgroup. The group held a jumble sale and I volunteered to help at the event, instantly making new friends. I later signed up to be part of the playgroup committee – meeting once a month, making decisions, and fundraising.
Once both children started school, I joined the committee of a new project in the village – to generate funds to completely revitalise our local playpark – requiring thousands of pounds to do so. I attended regular meetings, made decisions, and organised fundraising events.
Once the park was complete, there was the next village issue – we lost the roof of our village hall during terrible weather. This was a huge blow to the community, so a group of residents got together to plan.
Together we created a music and food festival on our village field, which is now an annual event. We attract people from all around York, with big name local bands, fantastic food, and more than 1200 people attending. We have successfully raised funds for the village and the roof was paid for after the first event!
Why is volunteering important to me?
Volunteering for these committees has brought me lots of friends, fulfilment, and enjoyment. I have developed a sense of pride in myself, as well as respect from others in the village for investing my personal time in initiatives that benefit them and their children.
My life in this village was changed instantly through volunteering for that first jumble sale. Despite my nerves when joining, and feelings of self-consciousness, it was the best thing I could have done to create the life myself and my children now enjoy in this fantastic village.
Volunteering is beneficial in so many ways. It provides an opportunity to:
- Connect with new people
- Develop your communication skills and learn to communicate in diverse settings
- Make a difference to the lives of others
- Learn new skills
- Feel valued, and gain in self-confidence
- Give back to an organisation, or community that has helped you.
For more information on Hey Me and the type of services we offer, please visit our services page.