Volunteering, how it can help you and others – Carminella’s Story

Giving your time to help others is such a wonderful thing, whether it is volunteering your time to give aid to a charity organisation or small acts of kindness every day to those in need, these acts can truly make a huge positive impact not only to others but also to help heal yourself.

In 2011 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, both quite debilitating mental health conditions, which have caused no end of issues over the years in terms of work, relationships and general day-to-day functioning, casting shadows of doubt over your own abilities. The feeling it leaves you with is one of hopelessness and of uselessness, like your not capable of contributing anything good to the world. This was particularly the case back in 2014, I had been working in retail which had completely taken its toll on my mental health so had to reduce my working hours and was feeling very low about my whole situation but I was left with this feeling like I needed to do something, something which was not focusing on sales for profit, something where I felt like I was contributing to society in a more positive way so this is when I signed up to volunteer at my local museum. Museums are usually at the centre of any community, providing a space for local children to learn or play, areas to encourage local wildlife conservation, local community engagement and of course exhibition space allowing all to visit providing free education of local history and/or natural history.

A lot of these museums offer free entry and only ask for a small donation if you are able to provide it allowing the museum to remain free for the many, also allowing people from all walks of life access to the educational aspects the museum provides, or to be a part of the larger community engagement projects. With volunteering, you get to be one of the people that make this happen, that enables this to continue and allows it to grow. With volunteering, you meet so many interesting people, most of the time just people who want to share their stories, thoughts or feelings because they do not have anyone else to talk to or those who feel they cannot talk to those around them. Not only do you get to help these people in small but totally significant ways you get to develop skills and build belief in yourself again. By helping to heal others you find ways to heal yourself.

Since that time, I have gone on to sign up for volunteering in two London-based museums dedicated to mental health, well-being and the arts. Each day you grow stronger, and each day you help someone new.

Carminella Knight

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