In recent years, volunteering has become a big part of youth culture – especially in schools, with the creation of the summer programme NCS and long-running D of E volunteering making it much more common. But what people don’t realise it’s more than something to do; it is a way to learn new skills, and can be an amazing gateway to your future and realising your passions.
- Freely offer to do something.
- Work for an organisation without being paid.
When I was younger, like everybody else, I kept getting asked what I wanted to do in the future, what job I wanted, what I wanted to be – and for the most part I didn’t have a clue. Usually, people take after their parents, but in my case, it really didn’t take my fancy: on my dad’s side I come from two generations of bookkeepers and accountants and my mum, for the most part, worked in nursing homes. Now, imagining working with numbers really wasn’t my thing, and I’ve seen how unhappy my mum would get coming home from work, so I didn’t see either of these as a feasible option for the future. It wasn’t until my mum changed jobs and started working in an after school club in a primary school that I really realised what I wanted to do…
I wanted to be a youth worker
By the age of 14 I had become a play leader working alongside my mum in her after-school club. This is where it all began. I was volunteering, finally on my way to doing my dream job without even realising it. Three days a week, straight after school, I would change into my staff uniform, go to the primary school and spend two hours of my own time running activities for young people, for no pay but loving every minute of it. Working in the club gave me so many skills I can’t even describe.
From there, I started volunteering in a local youth club, using the skills I had gained as a play leader to put on activities and games for under 11-year-olds twice a week, progressing on to also work with under 18-year-olds 4 nights a week giving them somewhere to go and realise their own talents & skills. The voluntary position was really easy to get; all I had to do was pluck up the courage to ask somebody in charge and they helped me the rest of the way, getting me CRB checked, giving me responsibilities and tasks to really make my own and make a difference learning new life skills all along my journey.
How volunteering can benefit you
Working with these young people, I started realised the real importance of volunteering and how little the young people knew of the opportunities and benefits it could bring. Without volunteering I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
My proudest moment during my time volunteering at this youth club was my contributions to the community. Each night we had a regular group of young people come in and spending time with them, getting to know them all the team and I started to tailor the club to better suit the local communities needs and started to put on fundraising events for the club to buy new equipment. Being a young person myself, not much older than the attendees, we established a music programme and bought all new music equipment to allow the young people to express themselves. We all realised the talent we were in the company of, and the young people hadn’t even noticed it!
As a volunteer, I didn’t technically have to be at the club. I was there on my own time unpaid so I was able to request which jobs I did each night. I took time aside with a few friends, other volunteers and some of the young people to put together a proposal, a plan to show off the talent of the local area, not to the public, but to other under 18’s, and 100% of the planning was down to us.
We approached local schools, other youth clubs, put up posters, sold the tickets and created music events where young people could come to our youth club to practice and then show off their talents to their peers. They started to become known in the community for their singing and performing abilities – we had become a showcase for young talent. All of the money made from ticket sales and on the night went right back in to the club and the events, and they just got bigger and better as time went on. Putting on events like that and taking away no material objects, nothing of monetary value and knowing you’ve just done something that has affected peoples lives fills you with immense pride.
Can volunteering lead to employment?
Volunteering doesn’t just have to be a small project for a few hours a week, it can be as big and as rewarding as you want it to be, and that is ultimately how I come to work at humanutopia, I was a hero, I put on fundraisers and events in my high school alongside my own peers, using the model that had worked so successfully before, and my efforts got noticed. Volunteering was a way for me to do something for nothing, and that turned in to a full-time job working for a company that changed my life.