The Advantages of Volunteering

 

Devina Whitwell

CUSU Employability Services Manager

The Advantages of Volunteering

There are many benefits to Volunteering that I have discovered as a person who has not only delivered modules on Volunteering but as someone who has volunteering in the past myself.

Back in 2001 I made the decision to go into teaching but make sure it was the right opportunity for me was tricky as I had never been in a classroom before. I applied to a local school (with DBS in hand) and shadowed some teaching staff for 2 weeks (obviously this was great for my application) but it also meant that I had first-hand experience of what it was like in the classroom. I was able to talk to some pupils to find out what they thought made a great teacher, hoping to use this knowledge when I stood in front of my own class but to also understand what a-day-in-the-life looks like. I got to understand the importance of Pastoral care, what it meant and why it was so important and I used that knowledge in my PGCE application an interview less than a year later.

Before taking on my current role (10 years after teaching in secondary school) I considered social work, still following my pastoral care theme. Again, I made the decision to volunteer to get an insight into what working with vulnerable children and their families would look like. I volunteered with Volunteer Matters in 2015. This charity aims to bring people together to overcome some of society’s most complex issues through the power of volunteering. It was one of the most rewarding opportunities I have ever experienced. To understand the caseloads of social workers and the hands-on experience was invaluable. I really felt like I was making a difference to the family I was placed in and helped to set some appropriate boundaries within the home. Having been a young mother myself there was a level of understanding that we shared and although our approaches were very different, I was able to empathise with her. In turn, she was able to recognise that I was there to support her and to help keep her family together. 6 months later I interviewed for a role as a Schools Volunteering Coordinator linking together all of the experiences I had. The role was supporting Volunteering in schools and creating programs of engagement for students, schools and the local community Having volunteered I could draw on the experiences I had as a volunteer and what might attract others to sign up.

I have had many other volunteering opportunities in my lifetime, Backstage Chaperone at a dance school, Governor of both a primary and secondary school. Volunteer chaperone at a Youth charity and most recently as a trustee of a charity, that focuses on improving the opportunities Coventry’s young people, through training, mentoring and music.

Every volunteering opportunity I have engaged with there has been a level of responsibility, a commitment of time (people still rely on you to be where you say you are going to be when you are going to be there), opportunities to develop and grow and learn from others as a result of engaging with new people.

Volunteering for me is a chance to do something to support others but also an opportunity to learn something new.

Our students normally have a top 4 reasons why they want to volunteer.

1. Meet new people.

2.Get work experience

3. Give back to the local community

4. Enhance their CV and job prospects.

During my time as a volunteer, I have gained insight into opportunities that I had limited experience in. I met new people, enhanced my employability and had experiences that I thought would not have been possible. Would you believe I even got to the House of Lord through Volunteering?

I gave back to the local community and honestly, it felt great. To be able to come home and share my experiences with my family knowing that I had made a difference.

 

Imagery by Phoenix Creative.