Volunteering is a transformative experience that goes beyond simply lending a helping hand. It has the potential to change lives, both for those receiving volunteer support and those offering their time and skills.
In this article, we explore the profound impact of volunteering on individuals and how it can shape personal growth, empathy, and purpose.
Through the voices of real volunteers from Wycombe Homeless Connection, we will delve into their life-changing experiences and explore the power of giving back.
1. Enhancing Empathy and Compassion
Volunteering allows individuals to connect with diverse communities, cultures, and social issues.
By immersing themselves in different environments, volunteers gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by others, fostering empathy and compassion.
As Lisa, a volunteer for Wycombe Homeless Convention, reflects: "It has been eye-opening and, at times, awe-inspiring seeing the strength people find within themselves to overcome adversity. They are some of the best and most interesting people I have ever met."
It can be difficult to understand the experiences of people who have come from difficult backgrounds, especially from the point of privilege that a lot of us are lucky to come from - although we may not always realise it.
If you’re looking to go into a communications or person-facing role like medicine or teaching, volunteering on your CV could demonstrate to employers that you have communication, empathy, and intrapersonal skills.
2. Personal Growth and Development
Engaging in volunteer work presents countless opportunities for personal growth. Whether it's organising events, teaching, or providing support, volunteers often discover hidden talents and develop new skills.
As Lisa comments: “It’s the most rewarding and valuable work you can do. Every day volunteering I learn something new, about myself and other people.”
While most may look at volunteering as an activity reserved for gap years and summer holidays, Parisa, a volunteer for the Disasters Emergency Committee comments on how volunteering has supported her career development and worked alongside her studies:
“With a focus on the programme side of humanitarian work my volunteering placement taught me about the key stages of international relief programme reporting as well as fundamentals around disaster risk reduction and accountability.”
3. Finding Purpose and Meaning
Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and fulfilment that can be difficult to find elsewhere. By contributing to causes they are passionate about, volunteers can unlock a profound sense of satisfaction and meaning in their lives.
Studies have suggested that volunteering can be “great for your mental health.”
Lisa continues to say that she “really feels part of something” as a result of her volunteer work, “both from being united by a cause that matters and from sharing a feeling of care, respect and empathy for those around us.”
Although she does note that “it can be difficult at times. You wish you could personally do more, but this is just not always possible.”
4. Building a Supportive Community
Volunteer work can bring like-minded individuals together, fostering a sense of community and belonging. Through shared goals and experiences, volunteers create lasting friendships and support networks.
Erica has expressed how volunteering has brought her closer to her faith, “as a Christian I want to help people less fortunate than myself”, and helped her to meet a community of like-minded Christians and outreach “in schools and churches.”
While Ruqaiyah has praised her experience as “absolutely amazing” and adds that “everyone has been consistently welcoming, and always tried to include me.”
If you feel you’ll struggle to make friends at university, or have found yourself feeling lonely living alone, volunteering could offer the chance to meet new people and build confidence interacting in new spaces.
The idea of trying to become part of a group as a new volunteer can be scary - like you’re a new character joining in season 3 of a show - but it’s important to remember that you are all united in the desire to help, and volunteering is all about teamwork.
5. Gaining New Perspectives
Volunteering exposes individuals to diverse perspectives and life experiences, challenging preconceived notions and broadening their worldview.
“You can easily pass by a homeless person on the street without knowing it, but after helping out at the shelter, you’ll be aware of the number of people who are trying to just survive out there.
“It’s humbling to realise how incredibly fortunate most of us are to have a warm, safe place to which we can go. Giving that up for a shift at the shelter is so very rewarding.”
Volunteering has the power to transform lives, bringing personal growth, empathy, purpose, and a sense of community. Through the real-life experiences shared by volunteers, we can witness the profound impact that volunteering can have.
So, whether it's dedicating time to a local charity, supporting a social cause, or joining a community initiative, with everything going on in the world at the moment, there has never been a better time to get involved and give back to the community. It may be more rewarding than you think.
Take the leap, find a cause that resonates with you, and set off on that journey.