Volunteering, (providing unpaid help to vulnerable individuals or groups), is increasingly common in the UK, especially as the job market becomes more competitive. Many people site the desire to help and the satisfaction brought about by results as their reasons for participating in voluntary activities. Below, Tia Davies shares her experiences with volunteering, in honour of Volunteers Awareness Week which runs from 1 – 7th of June.
Tia is a psychology graduate, hoping to work with children. While at University, she has been volunteering with ‘Home-Start,’ a charity functioning to better the lives of parents and their children. Their volunteers provide support and friendship to over 32,000 families every year.
There are more than 310 local branches of Home-Start – Tia volunteers at the Ceredigion branch. She became aware of the possibilities of volunteering when she received an email from the charity during her first year at University, and received thorough training from the offset.
Tia has always had an interest in volunteering, having been trained by the NSPCC in order to be part of a peer-support group while she was still at school. She was familiar with Home-Start as her mother had previously volunteered, and so the email was the perfect opportunity to become involved – ‘I think when I had the email it was the easy access to the scheme that made it so appealing,’ she said.
Every week, Tia visits a single-mother caring for a child with autism:
‘I visit the family once a week, at a time convenient to them, and take part in activities designed to engage the child, while simultaneously encouraging interaction between the parent and child.’
Voluntary activities may not always be entirely selfless – research suggests that employers value volunteering on a CV, while there are endless career benefits in gaining experience and social skills:
‘As the child has autistic tendencies, volunteering gives me the opportunity to gain experience in working with children, and also furthers my understanding of autism.’
Safeguard your Staff:
Of course, appropriate training is a necessity within this sector. Tia received training in safeguarding, which included learning the correct procedures for filing paperwork, learning about safe practices and ethics and also about confidentiality.
With so many advantages for everyone involved, volunteering is undeniably a worthwhile activity. ‘I also offer emotional support to the mother; whether that means providing someone to confide in, and to discuss confidential matters with, or just giving her someone to chat to!’
‘It’s rewarding to see the child develop and grow over time. One of the reasons I volunteer is that I know I’m able to assist the families I work with. They could benefit from growing in confidence, be that within the community or through making friends; and honestly, working with children is helping me to pick up some parenting skills!’
Now that she is preparing to leave University, Tia is also preparing to leave the Ceredigion branch of Home-Start. However, the support and comfort she has brought to the family will remain beneficial for a long time to come.
Opportunities to volunteer are rife across most sectors. In addition to working with families, there are plenty of charities concerning mental health, the elderly, learning disabilities, homelessness, youth, domestic violence victims and drug and alcohol abusers.
Do-It makes finding the perfect voluntary position easy.
It’s important to remain safe, regardless of whether you’re employed or volunteering unpaid. Some training courses we provide to keep you safe include Lone Working, Personal and Professional Boundaries and Effective Communication Skills.