Last week (1st-7th June) was Volunteers’ Week 2021.
For those of you who do not know what that is, it is the recognition and celebration of all volunteers in the UK to thank them for the job they have done helping others.
Volunteering is often seen as something people do to give back to the community, but it also has many benefits such as socialising, learning skills, helping in your career and making you feel healthier and happier in the long term, which many people may not be aware of before they start volunteering- I was the same before I started volunteering in 2012.
I have been involved with my local scout group 1st Holgate Scout Group, on and off since March 2012. Starting as an occasional helper with the Beaver Scout Section (6–8-year-olds) before I finally moved into being a fully-fledged leader and eventually becoming the leader in charge of one of the colonies. The benefits I have gained are probably way too long to list in an article, but below are the five main reasons I am involved with Scouts and continue to volunteer today.
Please note that while I am harping on about Scouts here, I honestly believe a lot of the benefits can come from any form of helping in your community and there is something for everyone.
1 - My Mental Health
The Scout Association launched the #GoodForYou campaign last month, like many charities they are struggling for volunteers following the pandemic. The whole purpose of this campaign is to show the benefits Scouting can give to potential volunteers.
I wouldn’t have gotten involved in Scouting if it wasn’t for my community psychiatric nurse (CPN). I was in the middle of a Gap year during my undergraduate degree and struggling to find activities to do outside of work. She suggested that I look into any volunteering around my community that I could get involved with. Scouts just happened to be where I ended up after searching online for local opportunities.
Making that decision to walk through the door changed my life. Although it wasn’t an instant change, it started to give me something to focus on one evening a week, I started looking forward to it and slowly realised that it was giving as much to me as I was giving the Beavers. When I went back to university, I continued my journey with a local scout group there.
I’ve not looked back since.
2 - Having a break from life
Just hear me out here. It may sound odd to say volunteering gives me a break, especially as I am using up some of my free time to do it. But there is something to be said about having a difficult day be it due to a bad mental health day, university work or job stress, and then going straight to Beavers and having a mad hour and fifteen minutes running a session.
Having that break gives me a rest from anything I am struggling with. It is a space to breathe.
3 -The Conversations with the Beavers
While I have mentioned that volunteering has been beneficial for my mental health, I haven’t mentioned one of the main reasons why it can have a positive impact on my mental health, the nonsense conversations with the beavers.
Some of the best conversations I have had with the Beavers have involved being told I am going to die soon because I am ‘old’. That Santa must live a billion miles away ‘Because the North Pole is miles away.’
The latest personal favourite is from last week when a Beaver told me they would keep breathing over half term as a favour to their parents. Not quite what I had in mind when I challenged them all to do something helpful over half term!
Without fail I will leave a meeting with another hilarious conversation having happened.
4 - The Unique Experiences
There are things I have done during Scouting that I would not have had the chance to do otherwise. My personal favourite memory of Scouting to date has to be when we took the Beavers to sleep at the Sealife Centre in Scarborough. I am pretty sure the leaders had more fun than the Beavers at that one.
But also, I have visited a working windmill, found local areas of beauty in my home city that I did not know existed, helped to build robots and rockets and ensured that the bouncy castle we hired once was in full working order.
And I know there are many more exciting experiences to come!
5 - Seeing the impact you are having on young people
It brings me genuine joy to work with the Beavers. Especially seeing how they develop from shy little six-year-olds, all the way through to confident eight-year-olds who are ready to move up to cubs. I’ve never been prouder than watching the Beavers face things that they are nervous about doing.
There is something about watching as you help a Beaver to learn new skills, be that learning knots, how to read a map, helping another Beaver with an activity or even just learning how to play a new game. To see their happiness at achieving something really does make it all worthwhile.
I honestly could go on here with a list of all the benefits of Scouting and Volunteering, but I am a big believer in the saying that the best way to learn is to go out and do it yourself. It doesn’t even have to be long term; you can do it for as long as you like.
Words by: Katy Colbert
Edited by: Tamikka Reid