Volunteering has been divided into two ‘types’ of people in the past. For those who haven’t volunteered before, its a jump into an unknown world full of lots of ‘open’ and generous (perhaps a bit hippy) people or retired people who have some spare time to help the community or a project. Both of which ultimately, makes you feel guilty you're not already giving your time.
Time. Another metaphorical brick in the ‘i’ll do it one-day’ wall. Before I took part in my first volunteering day, I simply couldn’t work out when I’d have the time to do something for someone else, when I can’t even keep on top of my own life admin. But it’s not about that. I’m not going to give a ‘do-gooder’ speech but a brief and honest post about why I started volunteering.
"I’m not going to give a ‘do-gooder’ speech but a brief and honest post about why I started volunteering"
Firstly, it didn’t start out of the goodness of my heart or to do something selfless. As bad as it might sound...it’s the honest truth. The company I work for has an in-house charity which funds local projects, and if you take part, you get half a day off work for free. Sounding pretty good so far; worth a try.
There was no doubt in my mind after the first day, I’d be back for more. After a few hand-holding volunteering days with work, I started volunteering independently. I chose something I was interested in (gardening) and went onto project managing a garden restoration for 1625 Independent People in Bristol.
I wanted to spend my free time in the charity garden, to see the progress and the difference we’d made as a team.
When the young adults came to visit the house, one guy asked if I was getting paid to spend my weekends pulling up brambles and bits of plastic out of the soil. This has stayed with me ever since. This was a guy who had experienced a difficult childhood, kicked out of school and unable to find a job; he thought I was slightly mad to spend my free-time doing up their garden for free.
In the UK the majority of us are incredibly lucky to have a full-time job, have a roof over our heads and a lot of us find ourselves Sunday morning with a sore head wishing we’d left the pub when we said we would. If you’re a weekend boozer, it is hard to break the cycle and 'fear of missing out' kicks in when you’re not where ‘everyone’ is. But in fact...you know it will be the same as last weekend. It’s time to do something different with your weekend.
"It’s time to do something different with your weekend..."
Sometimes, the daunting thought of turning up somewhere unfamiliar and new is enough to say ‘maybe next week’. A tip from me... before you arrive, simply imagine your doing a workshop or first aid course. You won’t know who’s there, but you’ll make some small talk and find yourself a little buddy for the day or focused on the task. If you feel nervous before you arrive repeat over ‘I’m excited, I’m excited, I’m excited’ and smile (It works, trust me!).
It's relatively important to start off with something you're interested in so that you actually enjoy the project your working on. There’s no point in joining Good Gym if you hate running. Gardening for me is about getting stuck in, hands-on, getting sweaty, working hard and enjoying it. It can sometimes be a challenge but who doesn’t love a bit of a challenge? After a morning of grafting, you come together as a group to celebrate what you’ve achieved with a cuppa. That sense of pride is hard to come by day-to-day. Everyone is buzzing.
So why do you need to volunteer now?
Well...because there really is no excuse not to. It’s fun, motivating, you feel a massive sense of success, a great de-stressor and you usually get a free cup of tea! On a more serious note...you are doing something that sincerely makes a difference to other people, less fortunate than you. If you can spare one Saturday morning with a bunch of great people, you’ll feel great for doing it, and it can be life changing for someone else. What I found out was what they say, is all true. It started off just being a half day off, but now I never want to stop, and I love spending a small part of my weekend taking part.
Volunteering isn't for everyone, but it's not for a small minority and certainly not confined to hippies, do-gooders and the retired. Saying that...I did get called 'the epitome of a 21st century hippy' last week.
Whether it’s on your tod through Neighbourly, with friends at the Good Gym or with work... just give it a go. Book something in and don’t leave it until next week.
Here are a few links to get you on your way…