As a charity supported by nearly 600 volunteers across the country, we’re keenly aware of how important they are to the lives of the people we work with. By becoming a volunteer you will undoubtedly make a difference to your community as well as society at large, but we thought we’d also point out how volunteering might improve your life too!
Meet new people
Of all the negative impacts on our lives over the past year isolation might be the one that was the hardest to bear, and left many of us deeply craving real human connection.
Volunteering can address this by helping you meet new people – such as other volunteers, staff and people using the service.
It also helps you meet people with similar experiences, viewpoints or interests; particularly if you volunteer in an area relevant to your own life.
Parents of older children with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), for example, often volunteer for SEND support services to share what they have learnt from their experiences with other parents.
See the world differently
Volunteering can allow us to see and understand the viewpoints of those who don’t share our background or life experiences.
This is an intensely personal aspect of volunteering, but one that is raised often by those volunteering for us, and the best way to understand it is directly from one of our Friendship Works Care Leaver Mentors: “I have learned so much about the challenges facing young people just out of the care system. It is a very different world from my own personal experience, and I feel that I have a greater awareness and appreciation of the lives that care leavers lead.
Try new things
Family Action’s befrienders support people to get out and engage with their community by taking them to activities, places and groups they find interesting, and this often results in new experiences for them too.
As one of our befrienders puts it: “I am now a convert to Manga, graffiti art and ironic superhero movies and I think my mentee has enjoyed the things I’ve suggested we do too!”
Connect with your community
During the pandemic we saw how communities came together to support their most vulnerable, with many of us seeing how rewarding it can be to improve life for those in their local area.
Volunteering for a charity works in much the same way, by ensuring people receive the support they need and helping to build stronger bonds between us all.
Improve your health
As good as it might be for your soul, there’s even more evidence to suggest that volunteering is great for your body too.
Research exists to show that people who volunteer might:
What’s more, there are accounts of volunteering helping to reduce depression, combat social isolation and reduce anxiety… so while you’re helping others you’re helping yourself too!
A study by the University of East Anglia in 2020 found that volunteering was shown to be linked to satisfaction in life and happiness. Interestingly the study also found that the people who stood the most to gain were actually those who face the most barriers to volunteering, such as older people, the unemployed and those who have chronic illnesses.
If you’ve not been in a work environment for a while, returning to employment can feel daunting.
Volunteering can help by connecting you to a workplace, but in a less formal/more flexible way than if you start a job. Volunteering also helps with:
- Getting you back into a routine
- Practising your interview skills, as recruitment can feel like applying for a job, but is usually much less formal and intimidating
- Helping you develop new skills
- Exploring an area of interest to see if it suits you before committing to working in that field
Family Action employee Siobhaun now works with our perinatal support service after first starting as a volunteer, and says doing so definitely helped her broaden her employment skills.
She said: “I love the flexibility and variety of my new role. On any given day I can be leading a support group for mums, recruiting and supporting new volunteers, carrying out home visits to new mums to identify their support needs, liaising with other professionals to refer a mum to another service such as therapy, and even linking up a volunteer with their first ‘mum’.
“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without volunteering first”.
… and learn new skills
It’s not just about workplace skills though. Our volunteers report that they’ve developed much stronger “soft skills” like empathy and listening while working with us, as well as confidence and self-esteem.
These skills can be vital in all areas of our lives, not just work, and help us develop our personal and professional relationships.
We would recommend volunteering with any reputable charity, but if you would like to explore the opportunities Family Action has on offer you can do at www.family-action.org.uk/ volunteer