Volunteering has been a buzz word in my world for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that I stopped to think about what draws me to being a volunteer.
By nature I have always been tuned into others around me, checking if they are ok and have what they need. I guess almost all of my choices around my career and hobbies have been driven by the philosophy that Mahatma Ghandi sums up here:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
So, this blog is me sharing with you my motivations, reflections and thoughts. Working in the 0-4 arena for over a decade now, I have had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing volunteers – individuals who share their time, knowledge and skills for the betterment of the community – proving that volunteers are the backbone of our community.
So why do people volunteer? Why do I volunteer? Well, people volunteer for a range of different reasons. Some of these reasons include making a difference to the community they live in, a chance to make new friends, building and strengthening new and existing social networks. For some, it is about gaining news skills, knowledge and experience or sharing and developing existing skills and knowledge – benefiting members of the community, including other volunteers and professionals.
There are lots of reasons why people volunteer. Here are my top three, which are important to me:
No 1 – wanting to give something back
From the age of 18 I have volunteered in a number of different roles, some of these include Heaton Chellow, Volunteer Doula, Playworker and an Early Years Practitioner. Most of these opportunities have involved working alongside people who are pivotal in early experience for babies or young children. Supporting them is particularly important because pregnancy and early years of life are vital in giving children the best possible start.
These roles have allowed me share my expertise, knowledge and experience. In some instances my role was child-centred and in others I provided woman centred support, which included helping women navigate their way through the maternity system and other services. I feel happy knowing that I am doing my little bit, not just in that moment but also helping future generations.
One of the most common motivational factors I have come across is the desire to give something back and help others. Like me other volunteers often choose causes that are close to their hearts.
Here’s quote from a fellow volunteer;
“Volunteering is really important to me as I get so much from it. Even though life is busy I always make sure I find the time. I feel I am making a real difference to someone’s life and it’s not often we get the chance to do that. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and I’ve had some fantastic opportunities along the way.” – Liz Firth, Bradford Maternity Voices.
No 2 – personal development
Volunteering is a wonderful and unique opportunity as it not only benefits the beneficiaries, but also gives us volunteers various skills and experiences that can be applied to our own lives. Being solution focused, being creative, taking initiative, teamwork, active listening, negotiating and time management to name a few.
Volunteering boosts confidence. We are living in an era where life is extremely busy, so taking time out from busy schedules to volunteer gives me something different to be a part of, a new focus, an opportunity to meet new people, and hear new stories. From my personal perspective all of this can provide a new lease of life, a new spring in your step.
No 3 – career booster
Volunteering is a superb way to boost career prospects and make your CV or personal statement stand out from the crowd. You can gain vital experience along with developing transferable skills. This can help develop routes into education and make you attractive to future employers.
As employers move towards more competency type interviews the great thing about volunteering is that you can use your experience to talk about things you have achieved. Employers recognise the added value that volunteering brings.
My volunteering journey has been really important to me, giving me opportunities along the way to use and develop existing skills: stretching out from my ‘comfort zone’ and broadening my horizon to learn new things and meeting amazing people along the way.
So, the moral of the story is… if you are thinking about volunteering I’d urge you to pluck up the courage and take the first step. Get in touch with me at Better Start Bradford, to see how you can get involved. We have a whole range of things you can get stuck into, we understand what motivates volunteers, and we value the huge difference that every single one of our volunteers makes to families and our local area.
By Zakra Yasin: Workforce Development Coordinator at Better Start Bradford