I can write an endless list on the skills and benefits you can gain from volunteering, but don’t worry I won’t bore you with that. Instead, to emphasise my passion and why you should engage in some volunteering work if you never have, here are the 9 benefits to gain from volunteering.
Before we start, I would like to make it clear that volunteering isn’t only for those privileged who live off mummy and daddy. If you are at school, university on your gap year, we all have an extra hour a week we can spare (this may mean dropping a Netflix series, sorry). I know it’s hard being hungover at University to get out of bed, being a tired teenager, or choosing 3 months travelling in Australia with ya pals over living with a rural community in a developing country, but trust me it is SO worth it!
So here is my list of the benefits and skills you can gain from volunteering, which may be slightly biased due to my own personal experiences, sorry. Enjoy!
You may have expected this blog to be about the benefits for you, sorry to let you down, but the best thing about volunteering is helping others. This can be as challenging as volunteering in a rural community in a developing country, or as simple as making sandwiches for the homeless in London. To put a smile on someone else’s face and help make their life better in some way is the best thing you can do in this world (in my opinion). We do not realise how lucky we are living in the UK, can you imagine living without wifi, or even worse electricity? When you volunteer, anywhere in the world, you are impacting someone’s life for the better, but you also learn to appreciate what you have back at home.
After studying the impacts of international volunteering for my dissertation, I have really understood to importance of development education and global citizenship. I will not bore you with their technical meanings, but learning through volunteering, can lead to an individual’s changes in society. You can learn the most bizarre things when volunteering, for example last year I learnt how to be a tour guide in the Duomo in Florence (despite not having a clue about Art history or architecture, shh). The point is, you never know what you are going to learn, and where it will come in useful, but it definitely will come in useful!
#3. Meet new people
When you volunteer, you meet so many different people, from different walks of life. The way they live, what they have learnt and what they value may have a strong impact on the way you then live your life. By meeting new people, you improve your communication and language skills. If you think that you do not possess any skills to offer, you are incorrect, because sometimes all you need is to listen to others. When listening to others unlike ourselves, and making a connection with them, we show empathy. Such skills are invaluable. Sorry if this is getting too deep, but lastly when volunteering you can make strong connections with people, and have friends for life!
#4. Have Fun!
Volunteering seems quite boring, especially if you’re not getting paid, right? Wrong. We work because we must, but we volunteer because we want to.
A quick example: Last summer, I chose to volunteer with WaterAid at Glastonbury, cleaning the toilets and campaigning. You might think I’m crazy, but it honestly was one of the funniest things I have ever done. I was able to spread the message and learn about the importance of sanitation and hygiene for the livelihoods of those in developing countries. This went alongside increasing my confidence by approaching hundreds of friendly revellers to sign our campaign, getting a free ticket to the world’s best music festival, dancing all weekend, and pretty much having the time of my life, whilst spreading such an important message.
Most volunteering projects will incorporate working as a team at some point. If you are good team player, then lucky you. If you are a bit reserved and tend to take a step back, then it is a great way to improve your confidence. If you are a born leader, it will be a great way to practice patience and listening to others. But no matter who you are (unless you are a saint) you will probably encounter someone you will not see eye to eye with. You will learn to work with others and make the most out of it.
#6. Improve your CV
Now to the more self-centered part of the benefits. None of us like to admit it, but of course it is very handy that having a large volunteering section looks great to employers. I am a strong believer that it is wrong to profit from volunteering for the soul intention of bettering your career, but it is also inevitable that it will work in your favour due to the number of valuable skills you gain. Engaging in volunteering work shows that you are hardworking and driven. You are giving up your free time, displaying your organisational skills and that you will go the extra mile.
Giving up your free time volunteering, comes hand in hand with time management. By filling up your spare time, you are unconsciously keeping a schedule, meeting deadlines, and not leaving anything to the last minute.
When you volunteer, you do not only have to be independent and confident, but you must think of others before yourself. You learn respect and responsibility when you take a step back, and put others first. You have to be responsible for yourself and use your initiative, as you may not have a boss, teacher or leader to always guide you.
#9. Open doors
When you volunteer with so many people, you naturally build up your network. Opportunities can arise where you least expect them, and because the people you volunteered with know that you are a giving, hard working person, you will find they are more than willing to help you out too.
So there you are, the 9 benefits that I believe you can get from volunteering. Sorry if this blog was slightly more serious, but I truly encourage you to go out into the world, help others, and ‘find yourself’.
Check out the Probono work we do here at Upstreamly on our website. Read about GravityLight, Sport Inspired and Rights Watch UK and the fantastic volunteering work they do!! Just go to About us, then Probono work.
Like Liv’s blog, if you have enjoyed this, I would love to know what your #10 would be? Just leave a comment below 🙂
*Marie, 21, Bachelor of Arts in Geography with proficiency in Spanish from the University of Exeter.