Becoming a volunteer is a fantastic opportunity to give back to your community, develop your personal skills and contribute towards a great cause. In a recent study by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, 96% of people found volunteering to be an enjoyable experience.
But it’s not something to be taken lightly. Volunteering can have a huge impact on the people you support, so it’s important to understand the responsibilities that come with it.
Here are some key things to bear in mind if you’re thinking of becoming a volunteer.
Like any job, volunteering is all about reliability and dedication. The organisation you’re working with can only make a difference when its members are fully committed. It’s normal to encounter challenges along the way, but it’s important to always remember why you decided to volunteer in the first place.
The more you commit, the more everyone benefits.
For instance, if you’re meeting people face-to-face, you’ll be able to get to know them better when you see them regularly. They’ll come to recognise you and feel more comfortable in your presence.
A great way to use your free time
If you find yourself with some free time on your hands, either regularly as a one-off, then volunteering is a great way to spend it. Not only will you learn a lot, but you'll also allow others to benefit from your own particular set of skills. For instance, if you’re working with a homeless charity such as Simon On The Streets, you’ll be helping people to take control of their own future, as well as gaining an understanding of what it's like to live on the streets and have very little in terms of material possessions.
It’s important to not make assumptions and generalisations about the people you’re supporting. Volunteering is a great opportunity to learn about the unique challenges faced by individuals in your community who you might not usually interact with.
Do it for the right reasons
Volunteering should never be a box-ticking exercise. You’ll be supporting people in great need of support, so it’s essential that you’re not doing it just for personal gain.
Instead, volunteering is a great way to make a positive impact on somebody’s life. When you help somebody out, it creates positive feelings for both you and the person on the receiving end.
Although we all have unique struggles, everyone benefits from human kindness. Studies show that being kind promotes happiness, wellbeing and an increased satisfaction with life. What could be kinder than giving up your free time to support people in need?
It’s likely that you’ll be working with vulnerable people when you’re volunteering. They’ve probably been through very difficult times, so it’s important to always show compassion and understanding.
A few ways you can do this include:
- Giving someone your full attention when they’re talking to you.
- Respecting their boundaries if they don’t feel comfortable opening up.
- Making an effort to understand their thoughts and feelings.
A little empathy goes a long way. You could easily make someone’s day by providing a listening ear, or engaging them in friendly conversation. Volunteering isn’t just about helping people gain better access to services, it’s about building long-lasting connections and relationships.
Ready to make a start?
At Simon On The Streets, we provide comprehensive training for all our volunteers. We’re looking for people who are dedicated, kind and compassionate to help us support people facing homelessness.
If you’re interested in volunteering for us, keep an eye out for upcoming opportunities.