Whilst doing my A-levels I decided I wanted another focus. A positive outlet to do something fun. But as I get very stressed and frustrated learning a new skill, picking up a hobby like a musical instrument wasn’t appealing to me. So I decided to volunteer at a local GirlGuide unit, where I chose to undertake the qualification to become a leader. I’ve now been there for seven years!

When I first thought about volunteering, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. There’s a notion surrounding volunteering that it takes a certain  ‘sort’ of person and I wasn’t sure if I was that ‘sort’ of person. In hindsight, that was bullshit. There are so many ways people can volunteer and activities to get involved with that it doesn’t matter what you are interested in, your age or anything, there is so much out there that it couldn’t possibly be limited to one ‘type’ of person.

Just a few of the hundreds of volunteering opportunities out there include:

  • Youth organisations (aside from GirlGuiding) like cadets, scouting or even just community youth groups.
  • Animal and wildlife conservation trusts.
  • Working with the vulnerable or elderly. AgeUK offer a befriending service, with the aim of combating loneliness, a common problem for elderly or immobile people who live alone. Similar services are also run by local volunteering centres
  • Charity shops- if you can’t afford to donate money to a cause, donating your time is equally valuable.
  • Special Constable roles available within local police forces. 

 

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GirlGuiding is loads of fun – mostly because, although I have to deliver the activities and do all the paper work and prep that goes with it, I join in too! Camp donuts anyone?

Not convinced yet? Here’s my countdown on what makes it all so fucking great:

 

1. Meeting people with common interests

Even though there’s such a wide range of people to meet, having a common interest to unite you can create a fantastic sense of camaraderie, even from the very beginning of your time in a new place. You’re there because you want to be, not because you have to be.

2. Gaining skills

Sounds fairly obvious, but it is not just ‘people skills’ like communication and team work and all that other jargon. It’s great for your self esteem too – feeling good about doing something you enjoy is awesome. Your confidence will get a boost. Guiding helped build my confidence in public speaking, and believe me there is NO ONE more judgmental than a group of 10-14 year old girls.

3. You might discover a new career path

Whilst this is generally not the aim when volunteering, it can happen. Particularly in specialised sectors such as becoming a Special Constable.

4. Experiences

*Note I’ve said experiences and not experience.* Everything one does is an experience, but those worth having are experiences, a whole range of which may open up to you when you volunteer. For example within Guiding there are opportunities to go abroad and visit new places. Working with older people provides the opportunity to talk with people whom you may never usually engage with and hear about their lives. There are so many possibilities.

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Note that there hasn’t been an mention of CV growth here. In my eyes, it’s about personal growth (CV growth is obviously good too, but not the epitome of volunteer work). Helping others and brightening their worlds whilst enjoying yourself…how cool is that?

Volunteering isn’t always an option for everyone. Can’t make the time? Don’t worry – our lovely Anna Rogers shared a few ways to make your community spirit stronger last month.

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