When I was young, I used to volunteer because I wanted to be seen as kind and deserving of praise. I was always the first one to put up my hand when a teacher asked for volunteers. I felt amazing and useful every time I did something nice for others.
As I grew up, I started to see that, even in school, there were people struggling with work or bullying. I started to realise that everyone I meet is fighting a battle I know nothing about. Things can get a lot better if everyone offers each other a helping hand.
I started a club in my secondary school called Magis (meaning grow and excel in a language I can’t quite remember), which offered free tutoring to students who needed it. I ran the project and tutored after school every day. I saw first-hand how students could improve so quickly and build up their confidence once they knew how to solve the mathematical problems they thought they would never be able to do. As their anxious faces started to turn into big grins, I felt a sense of fulfilment.
However, the real turning point came a few years later, when my project that supported Year 9s to develop public speaking skills came to a standstill. My school was not being particularly supportive and I left a meeting with the deputy head feeling disheartened. I kept asking myself: why did I subject myself to this?
On the verge of giving up, I saw one of my best students, who gave me her charismatically big smile. She told me that she never thought she could debate before but it was my enthusiasm that made her reconsider. That made me realise that I had worked so hard for these kids – not for the school or myself. I felt most accomplished when they felt confident, and I almost felt embarrassed when a parent of a very shy boy came and thanked me for what I did.
I believe that everyone deserves to be happy and no kindness is too small to put a smile on someone else’s face. That is the belief I held with me when I started volunteering with Schools Plus, Cambridge, designing a history project for students. I want to make the students enjoy what they do and flourish in knowledge – something that will give them confidence and fulfilment.
Volunteering, of course, has given me a great deal of pleasure, too. Still, I am most happy when the people I help are. That’s why I volunteer.
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