How Can You Get the Most Out of Your Volunteering Experience?
Did you know that 46 percent of individuals who volunteer in the United Kingdom say that their primary reason for volunteering is to help others and to do good. Another 31 percent say that they volunteer because the specific cause they are trying to help is important to them. If you feel called to help youth around the globe, there are dozens of opportunities available. However, it is crucial to take steps to set yourself up for success. To get the most out of your next volunteering experience (either in the UK or abroad), utilise the following strategies.
Find the right volunteer opportunity for your skill set
If you feel that it is your calling to help lead today’s youth with entrepreneurship and employment, you are likely to see real benefits when volunteering. Researchers have found that those who volunteer for causes they love experience improved mental health, an enhanced sense of purpose, decreased stress, and deepened social connections with others. Even when you volunteer outside of your area of expertise, the work that you complete can be quite rewarding.
However, if you are assigned to a task that is either not of interest to you, or too challenging, the experience can quickly become frustrating. To avoid a situation like this, seek out a volunteer opportunity that is suited to your skill level. The best scenario is being able to work inside of your specific areas of expertise. For example, if you are a web designer, ask if there are opportunities to help with an organisation’s website. If you are a photographer, inquire about taking professional images as part of your volunteer activities.
Prepare yourself for some of the emotional challenges you may experience
When helping others in developing nations, there are some common emotional experiences volunteers face. One of these situations is feeling the sadness and hurt of seeing others struggle in life. Whether working with those who do not have a good home life, or who cannot make ends meet, it can be mentally difficult to see others going through hardship. You may also feel homesick while away, which can make your emotions even more challenging to handle.
If you find yourself with these struggles, lean on experienced organisation leaders for advice, and for support. Additionally, be proactive in preparing yourself prior to your travels/volunteering activities. Talk with others who have volunteered in the same areas to learn what they experienced, and how they overcame the various emotional challenges.
Set realistic goals
Although admirable, thinking that you can dramatically change or solve an entire problem during a short period of time is unrealistic. Additionally, when you inevitably do not meet your lofty goals, disappointment will occur. This can prevent you from experiencing all of the wonderful mental and physical advantages of volunteering. Rather than expecting that you can eliminate a major problem, set achievable goals for the time you’ll be volunteering.
Work with your volunteer leader to set a realistic goal that you can actively work toward. Once you are finished with your activities, you can assess your progress, and feel a much deeper sense of achievement than if you were to have set no goals or impossible to achieve goals.
Working in your skill set, understanding the emotional challenges of volunteering, and setting realistic goals are all ways that you can get the most out of volunteering. Whether you are helping out just for the sake of doing good in the world, or if you are passionate about a specific cause, volunteering can provide you with a lifetime of rewarding benefits.
Written by Jane Kitson, Freelance Writer.