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How volunteering empowers me, and how it can positively impact you too!

I still remember the first time I put my hand up to volunteer during my #MicrosoftLife, with the initiative called ‘DigiGirlz’.

Microsoft’s DigiGirlz Day is a one-day event designed to provide secondary school girls with a better understanding of what a career in technology is like. During the day students interact with Microsoft employees to gain exposure to careers in business and technology, and to get an inside look at what it’s like to work at Microsoft. By participating in the Microsoft DigiGirlz Day, young women can find out about the variety of opportunities available in the high-tech industry and can explore future career paths.

I LOVED THAT DAY! It gave me such a positive boost that I knew, I will volunteer again and again!

After such an extraordinary experience with ‘DigiGirlz’, I made a conscious decision to incorporate community service and volunteering into my life, and give back as much as I can.

With many running-related commitments including half marathons & marathons, it was relatively straightforward for me to also start fundraising for the local charities close to my heart. With that in mind, in the space of the last decade, I got involved, not exclusively, with the following organisations:

  • Creating Better Futures (CBF) run by Dorothy Dix (who has also asked me to be a charity Brand Ambassador)
  • NSPCC (that I later became a School Service volunteer for, to promote Speak Out Stay Safe initiative)
  • Daisy’s Dream
  • The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).

Then, in March 2020… the world stopped for a ‘moment’ that lasted for over a year. For many of us. When Covid-19 pandemic struck, and I had to put my volunteering efforts on the back burner in order to support my own family.

After a while… I started losing my sense of purpose altogether. I didn’t WANT to be ONLY a stay-at-home mum. A cook. A cleaner. A wife. I struggled. A LOT.

Being with my own children almost 24/7 started taking its toll on me. Any effort to even speak to somebody else over the phone was constantly disturbed by a never-ending (it felt to me that way at least): ‘Mama, mama, mamaaaaaaaaaa, maaaaaaamaaaaaaa!’ I felt extremely lonely, and… empty.

Until one day, a very good friend of mine asked: ‘Would you be interested in supporting me in a volunteering capacity in providing social media and events management for the non-profit I am involved with, I wonder?’

This is how I became a volunteer for Ethical Reading.

Ethical Reading exists to help organisations in Reading town and their teams do the right thing by each other, the wider community, the environment, and to thrive in the process. They are all about encouraging people to take a compassionate, respectful and responsible approach when making decisions at every level from the board room to everyday employees’ interactions.

Their programmes target areas of key importance, in order to help local organisations tackle specific challenges. Ethical Reading’s current programmes, developed in association with various collaborators, are focused on mental health, workplace wellbeing and sustainability. However, they are open to discussing additional future collaborations too.

Joining Ethical Reading as a volunteer opened my eyes to many benefits of volunteering that I’d like to share with you today.

Benefits of volunteering #1: it CONNECTS you to others!

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is its impact on the community. Let’s not forget that volunteering is also a two-way street: it can benefit you and your family, as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network by exposing you to people with common interests, and fulfilling activities.

Benefits of volunteering #2: it is good for your mind and body!

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. It can boost your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity, and will reduce the risk of depression. As many studies have demonstrated, helping others kindles happiness, and the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.

Benefits of volunteering #3: it can advance your career!

Volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. It offers you the chance to try things out without making a long-term commitment. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to practise important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving and project planning. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

Benefits of volunteering #4: it brings fun & fulfilment to your life!

Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore different interests and passions. Whilst doing volunteer work you find meaningful and energising escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.

If you are interested in giving volunteering a go, you may want to look into Reading Voluntary Action (RVA), which promotes and supports the individuals and groups who make up the local voluntary & community sector.

RVA works to:

  • connect communities in Reading
  • improve the lives of young people and families
  • support the voluntary sector to grow and thrive
  • encourage volunteering and social action.

If you are thinking of getting to know our ‘Ethical Reading family’ even better than just following our ER LinkedIn page, or signing up for our newsletter – you may want to consider joining our volunteering team too! And you know what? YOU’D BE IN LUCK, as we are currently actively recruiting for a person, who will support our Finance Director with identifying funding opportunities, and…who knows…might it be YOU? Details at https://rva.org.uk/organisation/ethical-reading/

This blog was inspired by Ula Howlett’s personal volunteering experiences, and supported by the data from the UK Civil Society Almanac 2020.

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