Volunteering experiences

Age: 18

Where do you volunteer and what do you do? Three times a year I volunteer at an outdoor education centre for disabled kids in the Lakes.

How did you find out about it? Someone recommended it to me for my DofE Gold Residential a few years back, so I went then realised I loved my time there so asked if I could come back again sometime and it's gone from there!

What do you enjoy about it? The simple fact you're working with disabled kids, it's so rewarding. They love all of the activities and lots of the time they realise something new about themselves (e.g. they no longer have a fear of heights!). The facilities are fantastic, all volunteers stay in a fully-furbished flat in the loft with a TV and all that. The instructors are lovely and highly qualified (last week I was there and one of the instructors had just completed a PhD in Outdoor Studies!). You get to do the activities with the kids (abseiling, canoeing on Windermere, caving, and much more!) and you get to know the kids really well which is great fun.

What do you not enjoy so much? You HAVE to be extremely patient and love kids, otherwise it won't work. Many are mentally disabled and you need to exercise expert patience and tolerance with them quite frequently. It's really long, hard days; you're up at 7AM to help prepare for breakfast and keep going until 9PM, you even eat lunch with the kids so no break (although this can be great fun, but I wouldn't call it a break!). And, er, prepare for it to be a bit....icky; one lad this year sneezed on me haha! Oh well.....

Any tips/advice? When people meet disabled kids, they often get all up-tight and nervous about how they'll act; make sure you're not one of them! Pretend you're one of them and get stuck into everything, the kids will love you for it and it's quite fun! Get to know the carers well because they know the kids much better than you do so you can turn to them if you need a hand with them or don't know how to react to whatever.

It's fantastically fun so if you want to know anything more about it or want to volunteer yourself, contact me.

Schumacher's experience

Age: 18

Where do you volunteer and what do you do? I work in a local youth club and supervise and prepare activities, monitoring and evaluation of children and football coaching and soon to be manager of a football team I am starting up from scratch for the club.

How did you find out about it? I know it sounds a bit geeky, but from a volunteers website. I quit my part-time job in February and wanted to keep myself busy so was more than happy to volunteer.

What do you enjoy about it? The club is situated in quite a rough area and I get a tremendous kick out of knowing that I am making a difference by keeping them off the streets and making a positive contribution to society. I'm thinking of going into Primary Teaching so the experience is invaluable.

What do you not enjoy so much? I feel I am making a real difference in the club and I don't feel like I'm getting any recognition for it. Financial constraints means that we cannot do as much as we would like to and the club is quite run down with limited resources and no support from any major organisations. I would make a lot of changes to the club if I was in the position to do so.

Any tips/advice? If you have the time and pick something that interests you then I would recommend it. Don't choose something just for the sake of it but instead base your decision on what you want to do in the future and gain some worthwhile experience as it can only help you later in life.

Mike_mike's experience

Age: 18

Where do you volunteer and what do you do? I currently volunteer for the local volunteerism centre in my city. The work I'm involved in is partly administrative but I am also involved in many projects. The local centre of volunteerism has projects on environmental, social, human rights, cultural, political issues so the activities are really diverse from movie screenings to planting trees or selling hand-made objects.

How did you find out about it? I've found out about it using the internet while I was in search of a useful way to spend my time.

What do you enjoy about it? I enjoy the fact that I've found some like-minded people who are very focused on projects and who really want us to have an important impact with every single project we undertake. I also like the fact that there are many open-minded and smiling people, always looking to help each other if there is the need. Another important reason why I enjoy volunteerism is that it helps me improve lots of skills that I was never thinking about.

What do you not enjoy so much? The fact that it happens sometimes not to have enough financial support and the fact that we still need to be better organized for better results but I think we're on the right path!

Any tips/advice? Don't be afraid of asking to be a volunteer, many people were but after they tried once, they didn't regret.In order to have a good time in that organization, try to inform yourself about it and last, but not least..choose to volunteer in a domain that you are genuinely interested in, try to work on issues that you really care about, this will help you pass easier after not-really-successful projects or activities but also by improving the skills you need for a job or just in your daily life.

C274's experience

Age: 18

Where do you volunteer and what do you do? I volunteer in a local charity shop, mostly working in the front shop i.e. serving customers, putting new stock out, accepting donated goods and keeping all the items in order and the place tidy.

How did you find out about it? My dad is a school teacher and he wanted to keep himself busy during the holidays, so last summer he started working there. This year, I've got a ridiculously long summer holiday because I don't start uni until September, so my dad suggested I try volunteering there to give me something to do and for some experience. (I haven't had to work with him though.)

What do you enjoy about it? It's casual work and I can work whenever I want. The other volunteers are lovely and really helpful so I've picked up everything really quickly. We get some novelty items donated to us which is a laugh. We also get some really nice clothes and they sell really cheaply - I got a lovely top for £1.50 which is about a tenth of the price it would have sold for new. (By the way, all of the clothes get steam cleaned before they're put on sale.) I also enjoy sorting all the clothes into colours, it satisfys the OCD in me :)

What do you not enjoy so much? Being on my feet quite a lot - wish there was a seat behind the till! I could go through to the back and have a seat there whenever I want though, I just like being on till duty.

Any tips/advice? Don't be afraid to ask about becoming a volunteer. Charity shops are always grateful for an extra pair of hands and the work isn't difficult or demanding. I'm terribly shy but even I have no problem helping customers which is nice. Also it's great for the CV and for when you apply for paid work as you can answer those "Describe when you gave good customer service" questions!