Posted Aug. 28, 2013
As a busy student, you may think that volunteering will take up too much valuable time. But before making the decision that volunteering isn't for you, give some thought to the many advantages derived from volunteering. Talk to friends who volunteer, and check out some local organisations. Student volunteering benefits not just you, but many other people. It's a valuable way to make a real difference in the lives of others and to give back to your community.
Advantages of student volunteering include:
- improved networking skills
- greater self-confidence
- larger circle of friends and useful contacts
- opportunity to work with experts in their area of expertise
- increased knowledge and awareness of the job market
- valuable experience for your resume
- enhancement of relationship skills
- development of new skills, which may be transferable
- learning to work as part of a team
It's also possible that your efforts as a student volunteer could turn into a paying position, and give you a jump on the jobforce. There's even recent research from the US's DoSomething.org shows that student volunteering is good for health. Based on the results from a life satisfaction scale, students who volunteer are happier than those who don't.
Where to begin?
A wide variety of UK charities accept student volunteers. Choose one that reflects a personal passion or awakens your enthusiasm. If you choose a charity or non-governmental organization whose work interests you, then it's more likely that you will continue as a volunteer with the organization.
For lovers of gardens or history, how about the National Trust, a registered charity, which receives no financial assistance from government for their work in protecting and making historic houses and gardens accessible to the public. Volunteer roles include: story tellers, who engage and inspire visitors of all ages; conservation assistants and interpreters in costume, who bring history alive; and room guides, who respond to questions from the public. Volunteers in a National Trust garden work at pruning, planting, edging beds and many other horticultural tasks in unique settings.
Or choose a charity that's personally meaningful to you. Perhaps, you have a friend or relative with cancer, or a grandparent with Alzheimer's or dementia. The Alzheimer's Society for example has many vacancies for volunteers in all areas of the UK. Some positions are flexible, requiring a commitment of just a few hours a week. Other positions are involved with fund raising, which is an important part of the work of any charity. Funds are raised by volunteers in a variety of ways including: coffee mornings, tea parties, bake sales, raffles or lotteries, sponsored waxes, shaves and slims and charity balls. Large charities, such as the Alzheimer's Society, have an annual fundraising walk.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People, RNIBP, also welcomes volunteers of all ages in all areas of the UK. Making information accessible to meet the needs of blind and partially sighted individuals is an important part of RNIBP's work. Volunteers accomplish this by reading clearly and digitally recording a variety of topics found in non-fiction sources, such as journals, newspapers and magazines.
Perhaps, you are more interested in volunteering in a setting other than a charity. For economic reasons, the UK government is supporting the idea of having the public library in small communities managed and operated by volunteers rather than by paid professional staff with appropriate qualifications. If you are doing postgraduate work in library and information science, this could be a golden opportunity.
Maybe, you would like to create your own more flexible opportunity as a student volunteer. Have you thought of donating blood, coaching a soccer team, assisting with environmental cleanups after floods or other disasters, working on an election campaign, serving food at a homeless shelter or assisting at a breakfast programme for children? Do you have an elderly neighbour, who could use some help with their garden, walking their dog or shovelling snow? Does your neighbour want to learn more about e-mail, Facebook and Pinterest? Can you help a new immigrant with English? The opportunities for compassionate volunteers to gain real-life experience are unlimited, and may well lead you into a great career.
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