Hello and welcome to my latest blog post about volunteering.
I have written this post for the reader who may have been interested in volunteering for a while and not known where to start. Or for someone who may be curious as to how volunteering could benefit them and the local community.
There are several areas in the community that offer volunteer opportunities. According to the Open University, there are several areas of work where you could volunteer and include:
Administration, IT, management and finance
Many organisations depend on volunteers to help them with a wide range of “office” type work – from photocopying and envelope “stuffing” right through to helping with more specialist areas such as School Governors and Organisation Trustees:
School governors form the largest volunteer workforce in the UK with around 350,000 governor places. Governors play a crucial role in the teams that run schools, helping to ensure that all pupils develop as individuals and receive a good quality education. Governors have responsibility for the strategic management of the school, working closely with the headteacher and staff. As a governor you will attend regular governing body meetings, visit the school to meet staff, see the children at work, participate in the life of the school and attend special events.
Trustees, (also known as management committee members, or Board members) play an essential part in the running of voluntary organisations. They are responsible for ensuring that a voluntary organisation has a clear strategy, that it remains true to its original vision, and that it complies with all necessary rules and legal obligations.
Advice, information giving, counselling, listening and befriending
Many organisations also rely on volunteers to provide a wide range of support to individuals who are in difficulty or don’t know where to turn. They often provide training to enable their volunteers to undertake this sort of work and the knowledge and skills gained can often be used by the volunteers in other parts of their lives.
Organisations under this category could include the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Samaritans and various counselling, support agencies. Such as Mind, or Cruse Bereavement Care.
Event organising, fundraising, marketing, campaigning, public speaking
Many organisations rely on volunteers to support their work by undertaking a range of activities to promote their organisation and its work, to the wider community. Some but not all give training to help volunteers develop these skills but many welcome volunteer contributions to support the work of those who already have them.
All charitable organisations seek fundraising volunteers to help raise income levels and fund their work. One benefit of fundraising is that you can work for charities in which you have a strong belief. It may be as simple as rattling a collection bucket one weekend, or you could get involved in working in shops, developing new ideas, educational visits to schools and running events.
Other areas of volunteering could include working in conservation and wildlife projects and working in classrooms and schools to support the learning of children, for example by reading to children. I’m sure there are many more volunteer opportunities that I have missed out!
Benefits of volunteering:
According to Timebank there are a number of benefits to volunteering, including some of the following:
- Giving your CV a boost
Whether you are looking to study a particular course, such as medicine. Or looking for a means of getting back into work, or changing career paths, volunteering in a relevant area to your dream job, or course, could give your application the boost it needs to get you noticed by recruiters.
- Get back into work
Volunteering could be a valuable means of filling any gaps in your employment and getting a reference that could help you when applying for paid positions.
You could also try different areas of work as a volunteer in order to get a taster of the work and see if it is an area that you would be happy working in long-term.
This could be particularly helpful if you are currently looking for work, or wanting to change direction in your career.
- Improve your confidence
Volunteering could help you improve your confidence, as you may get the opportunity to try something that you have never done before. You get to meet new like-minded people, who are likely to be as passionate about the same cause as you are.
You are likely to have the opportunity to develop new skills, which can also help to improve your confidence.
- Improve your health
Now this is an interesting one. Whilst volunteering to help others, you could be improving your own physical and mental health.
The following research highlights some of the benefits of volunteering: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf
My own experiences of volunteering:
I have volunteered in some capacity since around the age of 17 years. At various stages in my life and for various reasons.
Following on from my Facebook Live video on my Facebook page BreathworksMK: Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling, I would like to share a couple examples of volunteer work that I have done in recent years and how they have benefitted me.
Inpatient Unit Assistant
Now I know that working in a Hospice may not at first seem appealing, as they are often associated with death and dying. However in my experience a Hospice is a very positive place in which to be and in which to work.
I was first drawn into Hospice work after a family member with terminal cancer spent some time in a Hospice. I got to see first-hand how beautiful a Hospice setting is, how kind and compassionate the staff are and how peaceful a place like this can be when you are at the end-stage of a terminal illness.
I wanted to give something back and help to support the vital work that a Hospice does for both patients and their families.
Working on an In-Patient Unit such as the one at St Francis can involve many job tasks, a main part of the role being delivering food and drinks to patients and their family members, keeping the kitchen areas clean and tidy and restocking coffee and tea supplies!
One of my aspirations is to volunteer for the counselling service at a Hospice such as this one. I hope that my work on the Inpatient Unit if the first step towards achieving this.
Cruse Bereavement Care
Another volunteer position that I’ve had a really positive experience with is volunteering for Cruse Bereavement Care as a Bereavement Support Volunteer.
After completing the Awareness in Bereavement training with Cruse, I have worked with around 15 clients to date, all of whom have experienced bereavement, or a loss of some kind. Clients are offered up to six one hour sessions in the branch of Cruse where I work, as an opportunity to talk about the bereavement, or losses that they have experienced with a trained volunteer.
I find this work extremely rewarding and have received tremendous support in my work from my Supervisor and Manager at Cruse. The change in clients that you can witness in a relatively short period of time always amazes me and is a real privilege to be a part of 🙂
Some sources of further information:
On this website you can type in where you live in the search function and it brings up a number of local volunteer vacancies.
Here is a bit more information about the Hospice of St Francis:
The Hospice of St Francis provides free care and support when it matters most to over 2,000 people every year.
We do everything possible to help people living with a progressive, or life-limiting condition to live their life well and on their own terms, especially when times are tough. We also support families, carers and children affected by the illness of a loved one.
We have five volunteers to every paid member of staff and incredible supporters who help us raise over £5 million each year. We simply couldn’t provide our life-enriching, free care, without their dedication and commitment.
Here is a current list of volunteer vacancies at St Francis Hospice: http://www.stfrancis.org.uk/support-us/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities
TimeBank is a national volunteering charity, started in 2000.
They recruit and train volunteers to deliver mentoring projects to tackle complex social problems. They also work with businesses to engage their staff in volunteering.
TimeBank believe that great volunteering can transform the lives of both volunteers and beneficiaries by building stronger, happier and more inclusive communities.
I hope that this blog has been useful if you have been considering volunteering. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Until next time,