Volunteering has never been so important as it is today. Not only because of the desperate need in this world from so many areas, whether it be human, animal or environmental but because volunteering builds people up and helps to develop us as human beings.
As a volunteer, I completely fell in love with the joy of teamwork, that sense of belonging to a team which shares the same passions and drive to succeed for the people they are helping but who, therefore, values every team member and the contribution they are making. Together we made a difference and those bonds of friendship have never fallen away. Volunteering is a wonderful experience, a very valuable opportunity open to everyone!
From another perspective, I see how much volunteering has done for my job prospects over the years and how much it helps my children with theirs, especially as one of them is now venturing in to that scary world of work. I talk to friends, sometimes on a daily basis about the increasing job dissatisfaction they feel and it is not an uncommon story. In this day and age we are so aware of the multitude of jobs on offer and the opportunities available for us to follow our heart and actually do a job we love. For so many people, that job would be in helping people or causes in need across the world. A phrase I have heard so frequently is “I want to do something worthwhile with my life”.
But, it is very difficult to acquire the job you want to do without experience, but without that job, how do you gain experience? Volunteering allows you to pick your dream area of work which may otherwise be out of reach, to demonstrate your commitment to it, to build your knowledge of it, to gain experience in it and to therefore have the background you need to get that job in a paid capacity.
I frequently work with young people here in the UK as a volunteer and one opportunity I have each year is to help at our local secondary school doing mock interviews for Year 11 students to help them with interview practice and confidence. In that scenario, they have to write their first CV in preparation for their interview. I am given the CV’s in advance to read so I can prepare. The range of the quality of CV’s is highly noticeable. Some students have done very little in the way of extra-curricular activity whereas others have not stopped. If I were an employer, which CV’s would I be most impressed with and invite to interview? The ones with an obvious passion for helping, initiative to step forward and volunteer, who have shown their genuine interest in the area they have said they want employment… or the ones who have done nothing but the bare minimum for their studies? When it comes to the mock interviews I conduct, the confidence and drive displayed by the volunteering students is visible in spades. I can pretty much fit the CV’s of the volunteers to the right children even without looking at them. These are the ones I would employ.
As much as volunteering really is a necessity now in competing in the job market (and we teach the youngsters in Kenya exactly the same thing), I more regularly see the value of volunteering from the other side of the coin. The help you are giving to people or communities in need as a volunteer, communities who would never be in a position to pay for your help, is priceless. You bring about change for the better, you empower people to help themselves, you leave a lasting mark and make a difference. You become part of their solution. The need is so great across the world that no country would ever have the finances to solve every problem that their people face. As volunteers, we are needed by those people who are just waiting for someone in a position to help, to notice them, to give them their time or financial support. Some situations are desperate and some of the most needy often just suffer in silence. The genuine, deep, heartfelt welcome and thanks you receive as a volunteer shows you how much people need your help but who had probably accepted that it would never come.
If you can volunteer in any way possible for whichever cause touches your heart, step forward and go for it. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your life for yourself as well as for those you help and whom you leave in a much better place. They will certainly never forget you.
If you are interested in volunteering with us, if you have an interest in helping young people in desperate need in Africa to change their lives and be free from poverty, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We recently got a team together to do a walking fundraiser for 10 children in Kisumu, Kenya, to try to get them in to school by raising enough for a school uniform for each of them – that’s all it takes to change their lives from the poverty of the streets to the opportunity of a life free from poverty. For us it was one day of walking, and we really enjoyed each others company and the team bonding that happened, but for these children… well, I’ll let them tell you themselves from the photo below…