Giving and getting - Ania's blog about volunteering
Voluntary ADJECTIVE 1. Performed, undertaken, or brought about by free choice, willingly, or without being asked; 2. (of persons) serving or acting in a specified function of one’s own accord and without compulsion or promise of remuneration *
I first volunteered at the age of 16, as an event steward. I still have my ID. I quite enjoyed that, particularly that bit of skipping few days at college. Back then, I never thought I’ll do something like that again. But I did. In fact, I probably spent most of my adult life volunteering and working in equal measures and I know many others who do the same. At Action Hampshire, we keep a tally of the staff’s volunteering activities and the current count stands at 65 hours per month. That’s nearly the equivalent of 2 full time employees. We know that the hours we spend volunteering have a direct impact on the quality of life of many local communities. And we know that in Hampshire there’s a real army of volunteers, supporting their respective communities, as so many of our member organisations are volunteer-led.
What I didn’t realise as a youngster, is that volunteering works both ways. When you volunteer, you give your time, skills and enthusiasm to people (or animals) and causes you personally care about. And even though, you don’t get paid for it, you do still gain something. Sometimes what you’ve gained will stay with you for many years, like the friends you made. Quite often though, the “earnings” are intangible, like the newly acquired skills, the look of appreciation on someone’s face, or that warm feeling inside.
Personally, I find that the latter only comes when you’re really, REALLY doing something voluntarily. I have to cringe when I hear phrases like “voluntary redundancy”, “voluntary work experience” and most recently “voluntary dispersal scheme”. Do people REALLY want to be made redundant? Do they REALLY want to do unpaid work in order to get meagre weekly benefits? Do the local authorities have to WANT to accommodate and take care of unaccompanied refuge children or should it be an obligation?
If you’ve got few hours to spare or would like to meet new people, learn new skills, why not offer your time to a local charity? To find a suitable role you can subscribe to our fortnightly Jobs & Volunteering Bulletin or simply head to your nearest council for voluntary services (CVS). Go on, you know you REALLY want to!