Think volunteering is just for stay-at-home mums or retirees? If so, you’d be wrong. The 21st century volunteer looks very different. Recently, there has been a rise in the number of young professionals volunteering in schemes such as mentoring in schools, helping out with community enhancement, and virtual volunteering. I knew I had been influenced by the mentoring I had received in the past, and had greatly benefited from it. Inspired by what my mentor had done for me, I wanted to do the same for other people.
I felt a need for personal fulfillment and to have a positive impact on people’s lives. Despite having already achieved so much in my 27 years, something was missing. The ‘feel good factor’ which comes from helping others is the only thing which, for me, could fill this gap. The buzz you get from a compliment at work or your latest purchase is short lived compared to the fulfillment you gain from volunteering. I’m not alone in feeling like this – over the last 12 years there has been a significant rise in volunteering. A 2013 government survey showed that 29% of adults volunteer formally at least once a month. The benefits of volunteering are two way – the recipients obviously get something out of it, but the volunteer also benefits enormously. Since volunteering, I have become a much happier person with a more optimistic view of life. It’s taken my mind off petty things and put my life into perspective. Numerous studies have shown that volunteering enhances both physical and psychological health, lowering rates of depression and mortality. The social side of volunteering is often – as we are all like minded people it is easy to meet new people and make friends. As I mentor in the workplace I’ve had the added benefit of gaining a broader network of acquaintances. However, I don’t see volunteering and mentoring as work, but instead as a hobby, an outlet to de-stress, relax, and be creative.
I have a natural ability to talk to people and to help them to help themselves, and I feel that mentoring plays to my talents. People find it easy to open up to me and share their thoughts and worries. I feel proud that my caring, open nature could make such a good impact on another’s life. Whatever your skills, you’ll find a charity – whether they need help with a new website, managing a local sports team, or organising a fundraiser – that needs your help . Volunteering can have a profound impact on your overall well-being. Research by Allan Luks, American entrepreneur and author, has found that those who volunteer are ten times likelier to be in good health than those who do not. Visit volunteering.org.uk to find your local volunteering centre. Alternatively, search for opportunities advertised at reachskills.org.uk