When I first started volunteering at the age of 14, I would have liked to describe how I fully embraced the concept of volunteering straight away. However, this was not the case. I was compelled to undertake 6 months of volunteering as part of a Duke of Edinburgh scheme. I was shy, reserved and feared new situations and was not looking forward to these compulsory 6 months. I volunteered as a shop floor assistant in charity shop called Scope – a charity which supports disabled people in the UK and aims to give them equal opportunities. I found it challenging for the first few weeks as it was so out of my comfort zone – I was in situations where I had to interact and talk to the public.
Nevertheless, over time, my confidence has grown and I have not stopped volunteering! I discovered that the rewards from volunteering were two-fold; both on a personal level and a community level. As an individual, I am now very social and outgoing, and new situations and opportunities excite me rather than make me fearful. On a community level, the impact made for the charity and those it supports is enormous. One of the most rewarding moments I witnessed during my 4 years volunteering at Scope was when a young man with cerebral palsy cut the rope for the re-opening of the charity shop after a new makeover.
As mentioned, 6 years later, I still actively take part in volunteering activities. During university, I have joined RAG society (Raising and Giving) and Enactus which is a social enterprise group that gives advice to local new businesses. The range of volunteering activities I have taken part in range largely; from acting as a marshal at a marathon to litter picking and weeding a local park. However, the most rewarding volunteering I have been involved in whilst at university was the work I did for Bath Mind – a charity which aims to improve the lives of those suffering from mental illness. A group of other students and I were given the tasks of raising money for renovating a dishevelled summer house which was used by some of the residential people. I got involved in every stage of the process from baking the cakes for the cake sales to getting my hands dirty and painting the summer house! Hearing how happy the residents were with the refurbished summer house was so rewarding.
I hope my volunteering story inspires you to become a volunteer too. The benefits to your personal development and the cause you are helping out are exponential.