How Volunteering Inspired my Career Choices
Posted on 21 Feb 2017
I’ve been a volunteer since I was 7 years old when I did my first charity bag pack as a Brownie Guide. As I was young, I don’t remember much about my time with the group but I do remember the big events we did that more often than not centred around volunteering. We sang Christmas carols in an elderly home, collected food for harvest festivals, and made toy boxes for children less fortunate at Christmas time. When I was old enough I moved to Scouting, becoming a Young Leader and later an Assistant Cub Scout Leader, organising weekly sessions of activities before I went to university.
When I arrived at university I seemed to get stuck in to all that I could and the Student Union quickly became the heart of my experience. Over my three years I’ve walked ex-racing dogs at the weekend, fundraised for the Calais refugee crisis and local food banks, been a part time officer sitting on my union’s student council, gardened at a monkey sanctuary, campaigned on sexual consent, held voter registration drives, volunteered at an autism support group and more! The value I’ve got from my experiences have truly shaped my university life and I’m now trying to secure a graduate job in the third sector.
I know volunteering gives you vital skills, and that’s what inspired me to apply to work for the National Citizen Service (NCS) last summer, and I’ll be working with them again this summer. NCS is a three or four week residential programme for 15-18 year old's that has one week focused on outdoor activities and personal challenges; one week focused on team building, learning a new skill such as music or sport, and using this skill in the local community; and one week doing various social action projects and fundraisers. My group organised a sponsored zumbathon which even the most unenthusiastic members joined in for. We also spent a few days volunteering at a local food garden and played team work games with residents of a care home for adults with learning disabilities. I worked in an area that had a lot of young people from low income backgrounds, and seeing them take the opportunities given to them and grow really humbled me. It was the first time some of them had given up their spare time to help others – and they realised it could be fun!
I think it is often the case that young people have a reputation for being self-centred, focused on work, and technology obsessed. NCS helps to challenge this and show that this reputation is unfairly given and in fact young people can deliver change through many different routes. I feel the ethos and values the organisation has are shared with Student Volunteer Week and the student volunteering movement in general. Students are often viewed as a nuisance in the community, creating noise, taking up space, and then leaving the area behind in the summer. Volunteering through student unions shows this isn’t true and we care a lot about the local community and various charitable causes. I hope some of the young people I worked with take volunteering forward in the future, and possibly get involved with student volunteering themselves if they get to university. It’s definitely worth it!