Soha member of staff with quote about why volunteering matters in Girlguiding
Give time to a worthwhile cause and everyone will benefit – especially the volunteer!
Connecting with your community, fancying a new challenge, wanting to meet people … there are as many reasons to give up some time go volunteer as there are opportunities to do so.
National Volunteer Week (1 – 7 June each year) shines the spotlight on the many benefits of volunteering and celebrates those who do it. A survey last May found that 10 million people across the UK were volunteering in their communities during the COVID-19 crisis. An amazing 78% of them said they would keep going after the lockdown. It’s understandable that working together with your community in an emergency has a powerful pull - but why do people volunteer in “normal” times?
Paul, Soha’s Digital Inclusion and Employment Support Adviser says, “Soha residents coming to the Launchpad service for employment support are often amazed that one of the first things I suggest is looking round their neighbourhoods for volunteering opportunities.
Whether it’s working in a charity shop or helping out at the animal sanctuary, some regular volunteering shows prospective employers that you’re reliable, friendly and keen to learn. If there’s nothing immediately available, or a resident’s location or mobility gives limited choices, there are always plenty of chances to get involved from home. That includes getting involved with Soha. A charity or good cause which uses you as a volunteer will always give you a reference, as will Soha. That valuable piece of paper can often be what makes a candidate for paid employment stand out.”
Soha is all for staff volunteering and gives “volunteering time”. Three colleagues share their perspective across three very different activities:
Membership & Community Engagement Co-ordinator Andrea (pictured) has been volunteering in Girlguiding for 26 years. She says, “I have built a network of Girlguiding friendships - many are former Guides who now have their own families. I have made connections in my local area as well as across Britain and internationally. I even met a Masai Chief!
For me it’s all about making a positive difference to the lives of young girls and women, giving them the skills and opportunities to talk about what matters to them, about having fun in a safe environment and trying new and exciting challenges.
It doesn’t matter if you volunteer for a year or for 20 years. What matters is that through your volunteering you are doing so much for the lives of so many young people. Girlguiding was a lifeline for me and our young people during Covid. Although we met online it was great to do some “normal things” and to see and chat to each other.
We always need adult volunteers, even just occasionally to accompany trips and activities, and we do our best to welcome, encourage and upskill them to help them to feel part of the worldwide family which I feel so lucky to be part of.”
Andrea talks about the new opportunities she gives young people, but often it’s the volunteer who wants to stretch themselves by learning new skills. Technical Officer Nigel is one of these: “I'm undergoing training with the RSPCA as a Wildlife Casualty Volunteer. I will be a point of contact for members of the public who report small animals that are injured. I will pick up mainly birds and take them to a vet or wildlife centre. I will be going out with RSPCA inspectors to be shown how to handle specific animals and be trained at a RSPCA wildlife centre. I'll be volunteering at weekends and I have a feeling that it'll be busy during the nesting season!
There have been times when work or home life have got in the way of doing as much as I’d like but the RSPCA – and I’m sure any charity which people volunteer for – is very grateful for whatever I can do. Even though I’m now training to do a very much outdoors job there are opportunities to help from home and I’ve been given that chance when my lifestyle at that time has meant it’s a way to carry on being involved with a cause I feel strongly about.”
We’ve seen a few motivations for volunteering without even considering the health benefits: any number of academic studies directly connect giving to others to recovery from stress or depression because of the mental stimulation and sense of purpose it provides. It can also help protect your physical health.
Development Manager Lizzie knows all about that. She says, “I love being engaged with the outdoors. It is the one place where I feel I can breathe fully, and think straight without the distractions of daily life. I am an enthusiastic advocate for the importance of this for us all, both for mental and physical health. I also feel it is a brilliant way for us to realise how beautiful this world is that we should do all we can to protect.”
With that in mind it was clear that, when initially looking around for an opportunity to meet people her own age, she would chose Bremex mountaineering club. She continues “Eight years on I am training for my Mountain Leader (ML) qualification. I also volunteer with the Oxped Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award centre from their base at the John Mason School in Abingdon but the programme has been on hold due to Covid. Bremex is starting up again now with some small-scale monthly meets since April, monthly Committee meetings (I’m now Secretary) and a monthly lecture series. It’s been a big learning experience. There’s a lot to do: website, social media, e-newsletters, minutes … every day is a school day for me at the moment!
Volunteering has taught me a lot about myself, reflecting on my own experience of being a young person. It has been incredibly rewarding to oversee the young adults go through the team building and personal challenge of undertaking the expeditions.
I would recommend volunteering to everyone.”
Find out more about all the volunteering opportunities in your community at Do-it.org
Andrea and Nigel volunteer through national programmes which you can find out about here: volunteering with Girlguiding and with the RSPCA
Soha does so much more than provide just bricks and mortar. Find out more about volunteering with Soha to shape our services at Get involved at Soha
See a piece from 2018 about one of Soha’s staff whose volunteering made it into the local press