By Anna Ruggiero
DO WE FULLY understand the true benefits of volunteering? Many of us have seen the adverts on TV reaching out to us and campaigning for our precious time, showcasing the benefits of volunteering has on the various not-for-profit organisations. But did you know that volunteering can actually increase your prospects in the job market, give you valuable skills towards your chosen career and massively contribute to your emotional well-being and sense of self-worth?
From meeting new people to being a valued part of the local community, the interest in volunteering isgrowing and this has been attributed to the current economic climate and the rising levels of unemployment which is encouraging people to find ways to fi ll their time and gain new and valuable skills.
Annette Atkinson, Volunteer Centre Coordinator at Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service (PCVS) explains: “At the Volunteer Centre, we are very passionate about the benefits of volunteering and always believe it can bring some amazing changes to people’s lives. With unemployment so high at the moment, it gives people a reason to get up and keep active and can also fill in unemployment gaps.”
In today’s world, volunteering is no longer just about retired people having some free time to spare; it now attracts a broad spectrum of society.
Phil Dobbs, Administration Support for Peterborough Advice Integration Project at Peterborough Citizens Advice Bureau says: “We now attract a much wider variety of people across Peterborough than we used to. We have graduates, part-time workers, single mothers, semi-retired people, jobseekers – a real mixture of ages and backgrounds. As a ‘work-force’ the volunteers are an excellent representation of Peterborough as a whole.”
In Peterborough alone, there are 600 not-for-profi t organisations and many rely on the support of volunteers and would potentially not exist without this extra workforce.
Katie Low, Head of Participation and Active Citizenship at Young Lives explains: “For us, volunteers bring with them fresh ideas and enthusiasm and this extra help also means that we can achieve things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”
Volunteers are not only seen as an integral part of the team, but are also encouraged to reach their potential as they would in an active paid role. Katie continues: “For it to work, volunteering has to be a mutually beneficial experience for both the individual volunteer and the organisations. We carry out regular reviews to ensure they are enjoying their oles and feel part of the team.”
It can also help put life into perspective and as one volunteer from Peterborough Samaritans reflects: “After I have listened to callers’ problems and fears it makes me think of my own life in a different perspective. It helps me forget about my own little problems and helps me to see what’s good in my life. I used to try and solve any problems my family spoke to me about but now I find that good listening helps my family and friends work things out for themselves in a much better way.”
A fantastic website to start your volunteering mission on is http://www.doit.org.uk/ where you will find a varied range of new and exciting roles.