I can’t really remember a time I didn’t volunteer. Perhaps my earliest memory is running a jumble sale for the local youth organisation I was part of – and having an argument with a lady who wanted to buy a dog bowl for 2p instead of 5p!
Certainly secondary school played a big part in my love of volunteering. While not Catholic myself, I attended a Catholic school and Lent was always an important occasion with a lot of fundraising. I remember running a stall for charity: ‘Swallow’s Stationery Stall’.
I was the Schools’ Mayor of my local town, even getting to sit in the real Mayor’s chair and have a chain of office. These activities continued at university. I was involved with RAG and the students’ union and was particularly involved in protesting against rising tuition fees: I considered it my duty because I felt so lucky to be at university.
When at University I volunteered abroad for the first time – teaching in Romania and then helping to run the programme the following year. Later I went to live in Japan for two years and got involved in some volunteering there too.
I moved to London in my mid-20s and wanted to find something that rooted me in my local community. I got involved in a charity in Camden that supports people with learning disabilities and their families. This led to me becoming a Trustee and then setting up the small national organisation, Young Charity Trustees (YCT) which seeks to encourage board diversity. It is still going strong nearly 5 years later. YCT means that I spend quite a lot of my own volunteering time encouraging others to be volunteers! I am proud to support Student Volunteering Week– it’s a really important campaign.
My big plea to students would be to continue volunteering after they graduate. While many do, others focus solely on their careers for a few years. While I understand why, maintaining your volunteering helps you continue to have a broad view of the world and good volunteers are desperately needed.
If you are a volunteer please give yourself a big virtual pat on the back this week. Your efforts make a huge difference and influence others to follow in your path. The subject of influence is actually something my new business is built around – see www.theinfluenceexpert.com.