21 October 2005
by Laura Gibb
My job involves working long hours and there is always a lot going on. But I have been involved in volunteering for years and there's always a way of making time for it.
I first began volunteering at school when I would read with the younger kids for half an hour on a Monday morning. I carried this experience through to my gap year when I volunteered at a school in Germany, teaching English. I have always found that I get as much out of volunteering as I put in, and in this case it was my German that benefited.
It was at Nottingham University that I began volunteering as a switchboard operator for the charity ChildLine. As the first person a child speaks to when they're calling for help, I had to persuade them to tell me their name, gaining their trust before introducing them to a counsellor. The skills I developed across all my voluntary experiences, such as a persuasive telephone manner, have stood me in great stead for the job I'm doing now. The Home Office, like many other employers, has an employee volunteering scheme.
As 2005 is the Year of the Volunteer, a team of us from work recently helped out at a homelessness shelter. We served food and helped clean up, while the volunteers who helped at the shelter kept us all laughing. Through Community Service Volunteers (CSV), our office has since spent a whole day cleaning up, rebuilding and painting an adventure playground. Everyone had a great time.
The overriding feeling I get from volunteering is that it's just great fun. I never feel like I'm working because I'm doing something I really enjoy. Helping others makes you feel good, and I know that I end up benefiting from volunteering just as much as the people I'm supposed to be helping. I've gained so much - I'd recommend anyone to get involved in volunteering. Just go for it.