During the festive season many of us think about those who are less fortunate and consider volunteering. But like dogs, volunteering isn’t just for Christmas. So when the new year brings with it pledges to go on a diet, take up exercise, cut down on alcohol and bin the fags – most of which will inevitably fall by the wayside in about three weeks’ time – why not resolve to do something that really will improve your life, and take up volunteering.
According to national volunteering charity TimeBank, volunteering can do plenty of things for you, from building your confidence to introducing you to new friends and even improving your health. And apparently it can boost your career options – did you know that 73% of employers would employ a candidate with volunteering experience over one without?
There are plenty of impressive statistics around volunteering. According to the 2003 Home Office Citizenship Survey, 20.3 million people took part in active community participation (civic participation, informal and formal volunteering) that year. And over 11 million people involved in formal volunteering at least once a month were most likely to be involved in organising or helping to run an activity or event (57%) or raising or handling money (54%). So who still thinks community spirit is dead?
A survey by do-it.org.uk, the national database for volunteering in the UK, revealed that the highest motivation for its volunteers is wanting to help other people (23%), closely followed by wanting to try something new (18%) and improving their CV (17%).
There is a huge array of volunteering opportunities to choose from including working with young people, those with disabilities, or older people. But if you’d rather not have a busman’s holiday, how about volunteering in something more in line with your your hobbies or interests, for example animal welfare, arts and heritage, politics, or sports. Or you could work in a charity shop, become a school governor or a magistrate, or help the witness service.
No doubt you’ll have some questions before you get started, so here are the answers to Volunteering UK’s frequently asked questions. One common question is how you can volunteer if you work full-time and the answer is, don’t be put off! Many organisations need volunteers that are available in the evening and at weekends.
For those who fancy going further afield then there are just as many volunteering opportunities to be had abroad, particularly in developing countries. International development charity VSO is probably the organisation that springs to most people’s minds. Nowadays, the majority of its volunteers are skilled professionals and the average age is 41, so anyone working in social care would probably be welcomed with open arms.
The 2012 London Olympics will provide the biggest volunteering programme in the country. It will need 70,000 volunteers to ensure that the games and the Paralympic games run smoothly. While they won’t start training volunteers until 2010, it’s not too early to register your interest.
Happy New Year!