This blog is written by 22 year old Nadiyah, an Our Bright Future Youth Forum member.
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Junior
“Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do” – Steve Jobs
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew
Why should we volunteer?
- By measuring volunteers’ brain activity and hormones, researchers have found that volunteers gain great pleasure in helping others. The more they give, the happier they feel. Volunteering helps to get rid of depression as you are meeting people regularly and helps them enhance their support system. Also, it can keep you physically healthy as studies have identified that volunteers have a lower mortality rate than those you don’t volunteer. It can reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce symptoms of chronic pain. There is an increase in self-confidence found in volunteers because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and identity from making a difference.
- To get experience in a specific sector to help them with their career. Valuable job skills can be gained through volunteering such as organisation, use of their initiative, written and verbal skills, etc. It can lead to internships or other opportunities in the organisation.
- Just for the sake of helping others in urgent need or the community that you live in as people may be concerned about a particular issue in their community, such as the reduced use of parks. Improving things or helping people is the biggest reason why people want to volunteer, which was stated by 50% of the respondents from a survey conducted in 2021 by the Department of Digital, Culture and Media. The second biggest reason was that the cause was very important to them, stated by 33% of respondents.
- To build connections and make new friends. Volunteers connect with the community through volunteering and make new friends which can combat loneliness and isolation. A NCVO survey filled out in 2019 by just over 10,000 people over the age of 18 showed that a high number of 18-24 year olds said that volunteering was a great way of tackling isolation. In addition, social skills can be developed as volunteers make new friends who have common interests, and make more through their friend’s contacts.
- To have some fun and a change from daily routines as volunteering can be relaxing if you find it impactful and interesting. It can be a means of moving away from family, school and work. It could become a hobby which volunteers do outside of work where they can fill up their spare time. For example, if you have an office job and would like to change your environment for some time, then volunteering in an animal rescue centre or in a community garden may be of interest.
Personal drawbacks of volunteering
Personally, I was discouraged by family members to volunteer as they thought that it was a “waste of time”. It was frowned upon and disliked. This did prevent me from taking voluntary opportunities and made me search for a job instead. However, now I realise that volunteering would have enabled me to gain skills and have experience which would have helped me with quickly securing a job. Another factor was that I did receive notifications about opportunities to volunteer in the environmental sector at university or in my community. If there was more awareness of how local residents can help their local community or if the information could be sent to relevant lecturers and teachers, that would have been helpful.
My experience of volunteering
- Learning Volunteer at West Ham Park
I mentioned my experience as a Learning Volunteer in a previous blog. Have a look! The skills I improved from this role was being proactive and time-management. I worked flexibly as I came in when I wanted to depending on which sessions I was keen to give assistance on.
- Content creator of educational material
It felt great to produce educational material for KS1 and KS2 children during lockdown. I created powerpoints and word documents on different environmental topics with a quiz at the end! Through this I developed my presentation and creativity skills, and gained knowledge. I learnt more about environmental issues such as facts on plastic pollution and about the different biomes in the world.
- Team london volunteer
I advertised events which were happening to celebrate the movement towards London becoming a National Park City.These included wildlife photographs presented outdoors, a unique audio installation in Epping Forest, and many more programmes. I developed my confidence skills as I had to approach people telling them about the different events going on around London and some persuasive skills from asking people in the streets to fill in our survey – which went pretty well! It was an extremely hot day in July but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the day, where it was interesting speaking to various Londoners.
There are many opportunities to volunteer, be it in your local area or a one-off trip to a far away place. I would recommend grabbing the opportunity whilst you can because you just might find yourself a new hobby or now able to come out of your comfort zone – in my case being less afraid of reptiles and insects! You can make a huge difference to your community or the people who are in urgent need of help.