My definition of volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain. So, you sign yourself up to do something in your precious free time and what do you get in return?
I have had the pleasure of working with volunteers at Changeworks for over ten years and in that time I’ve been enthralled by all the unique individuals that walk through our door and contribute to our waste prevention projects. At present I’m the Waste Wise Volunteers Co-ordinator, it’s a project that aims to encourage Edinburgh residents to recycle more and reduce food waste and we have over fifty volunteers signed up to help. I am in the very privileged position of meeting them all and finding out why they want to volunteer with us. Their reasons are varied and include: contributing to the local environment, to getting practical experience talking to the public, making a difference, learning more about waste, enhancing my CV, learn new skills and meeting new people. It seems the list is endless and it probably is! Each volunteer is unique and the benefits to one will be different to those perceived by another. In every case by giving their time they are helping the organisation and the people, communities and environment they represent and, at the same time, helping themselves. It’s a win-win-win-win-win situation!
Volunteering your time is an investment that pay’s back in the following ways:
- Gaining confidence
- Trying your hand at something new
- Connecting with your community
- Meeting like-minded people
Boosting your career:
- Enhancing your CV
- Gaining new skills, knowledge and experience and develop your existing skills
Fun and fulfillment:
- Doing something to help make the world a better place
- Making a difference
- Taking a break from the norm
- Gaining appreciation and being appreciated
But don’t take it from me, here’s Catriona Cory’s take on the benefits of volunteering for her:
“I started volunteering with Changeworks in the summer of 2016. I was keen to do something with the degree I am currently studying (environmental sustainability) and when I saw the advert looking for Waste Wise Volunteers, I jumped at the chance! I've never been particularly confident talking to people, so it was a challenge for me too. At my first event (Leith Gala Day), I was terrified! But the Changeworks team was and is great support, and made sure I wasn't out of my depth. I was surprised how many people I spoke to were keen about waste, and had so many questions!
“Since then, I've helped out at a few events, from other community festivals to student freshers’ fairs. There is a nice social aspect too, with pub quizzes :) and even a site visit to Dunbar landfill, with a lovely beachside picnic afterwards. It's been a lot of fun, and I feel a lot more confident talking to people about waste now, at home as well as at events. It's good to meet other volunteers too, and share our waste experiences. So glad I signed up, and look forward to what next adventures I have in waste!”
So if you have been thinking about volunteering for a while then why not seize the day and find an opportunity that will add value to your life. Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
Kathleen Vaughn is Changeworks’ Senior Waste Project Officer: Waste Wise Volunteer Co-ordinator