Volunteer to Change Your Life

If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, volunteering can be a great way of expanding your horizons and seeing what else is out there. Whether you are already in work or you are having to job hunt, giving some dedicated time to a worthy cause really can change your life for the better. It is something you can do either by yourself or with others, either friends, colleagues or housemates. The kind of volunteering you do is very much down to you and with that in mind Ramsgate Rooms has put together some information about the various directions you can take.

Volunteering in a crisis teaches you to work with others. © Joel Muniz

Volunteering has always been a great way of gaining experience, building confidence and meeting others, It can give you a real sense of  fulfilment that you are helping people and also learning about yourself. If you are currently out of work it will keep you occupied, enable you to learn new skills and let others see your capabilities. One of the easiest places to find a volunteer role is probably right on the doorstep in your own community. Going further afield will take a bit more planning and organisation but could pave the way for some fantastic experiences.

Internships can help you get a foothold in competitive industries. © Studio Republic

There are critics who say that, outside of the charity and not-for-profit sectors, volunteering is just a way for employers to exploit free labour. It is true that some industries have placed working for free at the centre of their career structure. In the world of arts and media for example, this is the case and such internships are highly sought after.  The other side of the coin is that by volunteering in this way you can find yourself learning about an industry first hand, that you might not have been able to access ordinarily. An undertaking of this kind is usually a focused effort in order to get a foothold in your favoured industry and you may have to supplement your income with another job.

Many important services rely on volunteers. © Ian Barsby

If it’s simply helping out that you are after, consider whether you want to lend a hand in your community or if you’d prefer to join an overseas programme to spend time in other countries.  If you are looking for something locally, decide whether you would like to give your time on an ad hoc basis, or if you want to make a regular, long-term commitment. There is a big difference between offering to make the teas at the local church fete and becoming a lifeboat station volunteer, for example. A good place to start is by approaching a volunteer bureau in your area who will be linking in with various organisations in need.

Lending a hand in your community can be very rewarding. © Daniel Chekalov

If you have set your sights on volunteering overseas, you will probably need to raise some funds in order to achieve this, although not always. There are some fantastic opportunities out there and as long as you are fit and healthy and able to adapt to challenging situations it could be the making of you. Do the research first so that you are fully aware of the commitments required, the nature of the role and how long you will be needed.

Volunteering can take you into the heart of overseas communities. © Larm Rmah

In terms of volunteering closer to home, there will be all sorts of worthy causes and places in need that you can give your time to. Whether it’s as simple as going shopping for someone or driving a community minibus, your generosity will be very well received. Hospitals, care homes, schools, housing associations, homeless charities, animal sanctuaries, wildlife rescue centres, the list is endless. Befriending, help filling out forms, litter picking, repairs, food preparation, ticket-selling and gardening are just a few of the tasks you might be asked to help with.

There are all sorts of tasks you might be asked to do. © Shelly Pauls

As you can see, volunteering is a very wide and varied area. You can use it for career development, to  improve your wellbeing, to give back or simply just for fun. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you find out what your chosen organisation’s volunteer policy is. There will be rights and responsibilities on both sides. General guidance is to remember to look after yourself and be clear about your limits, while doing your best to honour your commitments. Afterwards, pat yourself on the back for getting out there, and remember to update your CV and referee list, to show your development. Good luck!

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