Volunteering: good for your community, and good for you

Thinking about volunteering

The theme for the 2014/5 year in office of Sutton’s Mayor, Worcester Park ward’s Councillor Arthur Hookway, was “Volunteers and Volunteering in the Community”. This has prompted me to think again about the role of volunteering and consider the organisations in Worcester Park that depend on volunteers. The exercise has also made me stop and think why I chose to work on a voluntary basis and, a less obvious thought, what benefits I might have gained from doing it. I have also realised that at the time I was asked I just considered it as ‘helping out’ and hadn’t considered volunteering in general and its specific role in society.

An example of a volunteer

To try to work out what volunteers do, the skills involved and the potential benefits I decided to list some of my own pro bono activity. Thinking back over the years made me realise that I have been involved in quite a few organisations in a variety of roles, including:

  • Rugby club: coaching children’s rugby and bookkeeping
  • Scout group: fundraising
  • Libraries: teaching IT to over 50’s
  • Schools/National charity: facilitating the teaching of IT by children to the over 50’s
  • Community: running an historic annual street fair
  • International charity: the creation and facilitation of a children’s computer programming club

Skills

My list covers a variety of organisations and each role required a different mix of skills. Some of these skills I already had but there were many things that I needed to learn and many positions that didn’t come naturally to me and required a more fundamental change.

One of the important things I’ve learnt from this is that volunteering is not only a great way to share your professional and more general life skills with your community but also a way to gain new skills which can help with your personal development and, for some, can improve employment opportunities.

Friendship

Another unexpected benefit has been from a more social and personal point of view. Over the years I have met numerous people via volunteering activity and looking around my current close friends and contacts in the local community I can trace both direct and indirect connections that have resulted from past, and current, activities.

Knock-on effects

The benefits from volunteering do not usually end within the organisation where you help or even the physical boundaries of your own community. You will make contacts outside of the group which in turn will lead to new organisations, new opportunities and new friends. In fact, my last job and my current role as a councillor both came about as a direct result of my volunteering activity.

Volunteering in Worcester Park

I am sure of some key facts about Worcester Park:

  1. There are many volunteer led organisations in Worcester Park
  2. Some organisations in Worcester Park need additional help
  3. There are many people in Worcester Park who have some spare time, would like to make new friends or would benefit from learning new skills

So, I know we have the volunteering oppotunities, I know we have people willing to help, but how can they find out about each other?

Getting involved

As a start I suggest that those looking for volunteers or those wanting to take advantage of the many opportunities of volunteering visit Do-it to advertise volunteering opportunities or look for those that are available. If you need help to make people aware of your opportunity or availability please feel free to contact me.