Back in July I got a new job working for a local charity. Since then I have learned so much about how the sector works, the vital needs it meets and the gaps it works to fill.
It has led me to become a volunteer myself for Doncaster Community Arts and it has convinced me that actually getting up and doing something is really important.
One of my all time favourite quotes is ‘when spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion’. If we all do a little bit, if we all offer our own experience, expertise and ideas into the pool, we can solve massive problems together.
I know I personally have been put off volunteering in the past because the process of getting registered seemed too long and drawn out, and I was never sure of exactly what I could expect.
Now I realise you don’t really need to be sure – just be sure of what you can offer. This could be anything at all.
Music, cleaning, graphic design, writing, organising a fundraiser, minute-taking at meetings – or even just setting up a small standing order.
It is vital that we all make an effort to support the third sector because without it a lot of people out there would be totally screwed, quite frankly. I’m not talking about a low standard of living here, I’m talking about having no home, no income and no one to talk to.
I believe that if you’re lucky enough to have the ability to help people beyond your immediate circle of family and friends, you absolutely must use that ability.
Here are 5 reasons to volunteer – I hope they motivate you to research groups, organisations and charities in your local area.
1. Develop skills in your area of expertise
The beauty of volunteering is that everyone is free to play to their strengths and bring something to the table. Everyone is good at something.
2. Gain new skills in a new area of expertise
The other beauty of volunteering is that you might end up discovering a hidden talent or passion
3. Mix with a diverse group of people
The charity I work for is a volunteer led organisation with over 200 volunteers. So, during meetings I get to collaborate with people of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds. Getting to know different people face to face is one of the best ways to keep an open mind.
4. Feel good about yourself
Whenever I do something good, even if it’s as small as giving a stranger directions, I’m left with a great sense of wellbeing. They say laughter is the best medicine but I think helping others is a close contender.
5. See the real bigger picture
The problem with our world’s problems is that they’re usually invisible. Before I started working for my charity I had no idea that the problem we work to solve even existed. More than that, it existed right under my nose. On the same streets I walk through every day.
It really brings home how dangerously easy it is to be ignorant.
If you’re thinking about volunteering or supporting a cause but don’t know where to start, some great organisations I know of are The Real Junk Food Project (there’s a lot of these popping up in most towns and cities now), the Big Issue North (I recently started buying the Big Issue and it’s the most interesting magazine I’ve ever read) and finally City of Sanctuary – again, there’s many of these across the country.
It’s also worth researching local arts, culture & theatre groups as they’re often in need of support.
Have you ever volunteered or thought about doing so?