#IVolunteerBecause – Florence Jones
Posted on: 15 February 2018
The importance of ‘giving back’ was a strong theme of my childhood. My love of volunteering began at school when I visited a disabled lady each Wednesday afternoon as part of community service. Being able to brighten her week and help around her flat made me feel useful. I especially enjoyed hearing her stories. I also spent time helping out at my local charity bookshop. It was fun way to interact with local people, spend time engrossing myself in books and learn customer service skills.
Whilst at university, I joined Winchester Hub at its humble beginnings, first as Schools Plus tutor, then as Schools Plus coordinator. I am passionate about overcoming educational disadvantage, so training students to work with children in deprived areas was incredibly meaningful. The role gave me the chance to take part in debates, speak with members of the university and invite school pupils to visit campus. This all gave a voice to the issue and encouraged more people to join in with Schools Plus.
These roles with Winchester Hub led to volunteering on the Hub committee, where we came up with fresh ideas to get students involved in social action each week. Volunteering isn’t just about giving to others, it is a chance to gain useful skills and make friends. I have met some of the most enthusiastic, hard-working people through my volunteering – people truly committed to making a difference. My university experience culminated in being given the Vice-Chancellor’s award for commitment to volunteering at graduation. An incredibly unexpected achievement – even my mum shed a tear!
Fast forward three years, and my passion for volunteering and the third sector has not abated. I’ve worked for a Christian charity as a Communications Officer, volunteered for my local Community Film Society and recently returned from three months in Malaysian Borneo with Raleigh International.
This last experience arose because I knew I wanted to go travelling but I wanted to do something worthwhile with that time. I also wanted the chance to use my skills in communications. After carefully researching international charities, Raleigh International, which emphasises sustainable, youth-driven, locally engaged programmes, filled my criteria.
I hosted a charity quiz and silent auction to reach my fundraising target for the trip. These events both made me work outside my comfort zone! I then flew out to Borneo in early September as the expedition Communications Officer. It was an incredible experience that involved bringing water to a village, building a Community Learning Centre, preserving areas of the jungle for conservation purposes and helping volunteers get to grips with adventure leadership. It was amazing to see what the volunteers achieved in 10 weeks and the change that they made both in their lives and in other people’s.
Volunteering has enabled me to give back to society, make lifelong friends and gain valuable experience. I plan to continue my volunteering journey and I would encourage anyone to give it a go. What have you got to lose?
Join Florence and share your social action experiences using #IVolunteerBecause on Facebook and Twitter. Let us know what you’re up to during Student Volunteering Week using #SVW2018, too! You can find activities taking place through your local Hub.