Volunteering And Its Riches
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Writers’ Club member Elise talks about what volunteering means to her…
To volunteer is to carry soil, little by little, from a simple field to a forest, and watch your efforts bloom into great trees. It gives you a sense of achievement, making you a well-oiled cog in a thriving machine - or community. The multitude of opportunities available nurture a huge number of skills and memories, so there’s always something new to gain.
Up to now, I’ve done two sets of volunteering, which could hardly have been more different. One focused on a single library, and the other enveloped both my local area and the wider country. One kept me safe and warm inside, and the other left me wandering outdoors in all weathers. Their differences were blessings and I learnt so much from both experiences; they helped me grow personally and made me feel happier.
For my first go at volunteering, I helped out at my local library for an hour every Saturday morning. Imagine a refuge from the cold winter days, with a friendly face to always say hello to, surrounded by my oldest companions – books – and you’ll see the haven I enjoyed every week. This beacon for the community is volunteer-run, so each person in there is passionate about its continued success. They shared stories about the village and its residents during our regular chats behind the counter and the brilliant celebration event which happily coincided with my last week.
I learnt how to serve customers, how to properly organise the bookshelves and even how to be a good waitress. I got to watch all kinds of people walk through our doors, from the germinating seeds of little children to the fully-bloomed flowers of retirees. I hadn’t felt so connected to the place I’ve grown up in since leaving the village school in Year 6. What made it even better was that all this wonder happened early on a Saturday morning, so, before the day truly started, while the birds were still chirping, I’d done something to be proud of. It set a strong, productive tone for the rest of the weekend, making it a relaxing border between a long week at school and a few days of rest.
In the midst of our first lockdown, I didn’t have to worry about exams, and the sun waited outside my window most days, inviting me outdoors. I decided to start volunteering again and I began litter picking, moving through my local area and other parts of England to collect rubbish and data. I crafted a programme of different locations to visit and devised a project to figure out which was cleaner. Then once a week, my dad and I walked one of the routes, organising the litter into recyclable and non-recyclable items, which were quarantined for a week in our shed before being responsibly disposed of.
We went out when the skies were perfectly blue and the warm summer breeze buoyed us along, and when the clouds hung gloomily over our heads and the hood of my coat obscured the path ahead. Come rain or shine, we never failed in our quest – even if it was hard to break away from the comfort of sleep. I didn’t want to miss a session when we went on holiday, so I made the most of it by comparing my local area to wherever we were. I tried to maximise this opportunity to learn about the environment by counting how many different types of litter made it to our streets (like plastic bottles or glass) and how that corresponded to the number of bins around. It was a great focus for lockdown and such an interesting project. I had to motivate myself, be determined and work thoroughly – skills I find really useful now. Best of all, I even enjoyed it!
There are hundreds of activities you can carry out to make a difference to your community, the environment or society as a whole. Here are a few ideas:
- working in a charity shop
- looking after/babysitting children
- cleaning cars
- cutting your neighbour’s grass
- being an interpreter
- collecting donations for vulnerable people
- planting trees
- helping to coach a sports team
- taking on a renovation project
Volunteering really does open up new horizons. It helps you learn about yourself and the way your actions have an impact on the world around you. Few things are more rewarding than making a difference for the fun of it. And, once you’ve found an opportunity that excites you, you can truly make it your own. Behind every special interest or favourite topic of conversation is a chance to have a positive effect on the environment and/or society itself. I’ve gained so much from my volunteering experiences, and I’d love to do it again. So, grab a handful of soil and let’s start planting a forest.