June the 1st marks the start of Volunteers’ Week in the UK, an annual event that celebrates the contributions made by voluntary workers across the UK. A staggering 20 million people volunteer in the UK every year, doing work as diverse as running the local youth club to serving tea in the local hospital or running a helpline for disabled people. It is estimated that volunteering is valued at £40 billion to our economy.
Volunteering is essential to our local communities. The contributions made by our volunteers add that ‘extra something’ that improves the quality of many people’s lives, sometimes without us realising or fully appreciating it. These are the people who make lives less isolating by providing opportunities for people to socialise and meet others.
These are the people who help to provide shelter and food to those without. These are the people who help to provide emotional or practical support to those experiencing difficult times.
Above all these are ordinary people, just like you and me, who have given up their spare
time to help their local community. The chances are, that at some point in our lives you and I will be touched by the kindness and enthusiasm of a volunteer.
But whilst voluntary work is clearly a positive thing for society, what are the benefits of volunteering for the volunteer?
To give you some insight, I can tell you a little bit about my voluntary experience. A few years ago when my youngest daughter started school, I decided to become involved in community education, something that I had always wanted to do since my teenage years. As an idealist teenager, my passion for reading and writing made me realise just how lucky I was to be able to do these things and how sad it was that so many people were unable to properly read and write.
I vowed that one day I would help people with their basic skills and sure enough, many years later, I started to help adults with their literacy and numeracy skills. It was only for a few hours a week but it was a job that exceeded all of my expectations. I loved being able to help others and give something back to society and I loved working with such a diverse range of students, young and old. Of course it wasn’t always easy; some adult learners face considerable difficulties in their lives and my role as a volunteer was sometimes a challenging one. Nevetheless I was well supported and have been lucky enough to go on various training courses that have helped me to further develop my skills which in turn has helped me to acquire paid work.
But voluntary work is more than becoming reskilled for the workforce, as positive as this is. It is also about being part of your local community without the burden and restriction of a work contract. You do something because you want to do it, rather than feeling you have to do it. You do something because you are passionate about something, about helping others or giving something back to society. And in return, you get the chance to feel of whole lot happier with life. It is an amazing experience and something that I will never, ever regret doing.
If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering, then check out these
Volunteering England – http://volunteering.org.uk/
Do-it Volunteering made easy – http://do-it.org.uk/
Community Service Volunteers – http://www.csv.org.uk/?display=volunteering