I have always been passionate about volunteering which probably stems from my dad, even though I don’t like to admit it. My dad is a man of many skills and interests, and volunteering for a good cause is certainly at the heart of his priorities. These have been passed onto me.
I first started volunteering when I was 14 at East Lothian Special Needs Playscheme. This is a charity that runs events for young people with additional support needs. It was great as a young teenager as I was given a lot of responsibility and met a lot of friends that I am still in contact with today. I usually worked on a 1:1 with a young person; we would go swimming or to the zoo, soft play or for a walk in the sunshine. It was an excellent way to fill my school holidays. I volunteered every year and became a Group Leader in my 5th and 6th year at school. This was an honour as I had always looked up to my Group Leaders when I was a volunteer.
Before University, I decided that I wanted to do some volunteering abroad. I worked in a special needs orphanage in Sri Lanka and taught English in a special need women’s home for over a year. In Sri Lanka, disability is something that there is not a lot of awareness about. If a child is born with a disability they are often abandoned on the street and become orphans. At the orphanage where I volunteered, there were 30 young people and 1 carer. The carer, another international volunteer, and I looked after the young people and the orphanage. It was hard work and long hours. However, it was a fantastic experience and a volunteering job that I will never forget. Being surrounded by 30 brothers and sisters who had such complex needs but were always smiling, was just inspirational.
After University, I decided that I would like to work in the charity sector and got offered a job as Volunteer Recruitment Officer for an International Development Charity. This was ideal – I got to spend my days encouraging young people to volunteer and training volunteers who were going to be doing similar roles as I did in Sri Lanka. The enthusiasm and drive that these volunteers had really encouraged me to pursue a job that was working with volunteers. This brings me to my current employment as Volunteers Manager with Dyslexia Scotland. I have the privilege of working with volunteers every day. As I spend a lot of time encouraging people to volunteer, I am a firm believer in practising what you preach.
I currently volunteer for a few charities. I am a Cub Leader with a local Scout Group. I currently have 36 Cubs and we meet every Tuesday. We often go camping and on various different trips. My friends often ask me why I do this and if I am completely honest, it is for selfish reasons. I love working with kids and I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy every session and don’t feel like it is a strain on my time. It takes a lot of planning and organisation but again, this is not a chore for me.
I also currently volunteer with Shannon Trust which is a charity that promotes literacy within the Prison Service. As I studied Criminology at University, I feel like I am using some of my skills in a positive way.
When I have a spare afternoon, I look after a young boy with autism. I have known Kevin for a long time and I love spending time with him. It allows his parents some time for respite and means Kevin and I can go and explore.
I will be leaving Dyslexia Scotland on the 22nd June, but only for a month (you can’t get rid of me that easily…) I am heading to Zambia and Botswana to do some volunteer work with a group of Scouts. Again, I will benefit hugely from the experience I will gain and the skills that I will learn. I will be taking a few days off to go white water rafting in the Zambezi river! Wish me luck, I have a feeling I might need it!
Let’s face it; volunteering is fun, rewarding and really does make a difference. Why not give it a go? Whether you hold a coffee morning to raise money, spare a few hours to work in a charity shop, be part of a committee or joining a Brownie group. The opportunities are endless, as are the rewards.