Volunteer - you won't regret it

Volunteering is student blogger Orli West's passion and she thinks that everyone's lives could be enriched by a few more charitable activities

July 04, 2018 13:25

In all of our lives, we have a moment that defines us. We may not know it at the time, but these moments alter who we are and who we will become. As we grow up, we have more and more of these moments, but for me I have a handful that I look back on and I know they helped me become who I am. One of the first of these moments was Mitzvah Day in 2011. I was working at Redbridge Jewish Community Centre on their biscuit decorating stand, and we were hosting children with special needs from Norwood. One of these children was a very sweet boy who had Down Syndrome, who spent half an hour putting blue icing on a biscuit, licking it off, and then repeating the process. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but that experience would lead to hundreds of hours of volunteering, a whole host of incredible experiences (including a university degree and a soon-to-be career), and one of my biggest passions in life: facilitating the development of special needs young people.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life” or so says Confucius. If you are currently doing A-levels or at university, I’m sure this is a phrase you’re now sick of hearing from tutors, parents, graduates. But as much as I hate to say it, it’s true. Everyone has days that are hard – really, soul-crushingly, edge-of-tears hard. For me, (without sounding too self-righteous), a lot of these days have been days that I’m not even being paid to work. What gets me through it? The fact that on most of the other days, I absolutely love what I do.

As I’m writing this article, I’ve just finished my second week of volunteering at a special needs school in Essex for children with severe medical and learning disabilities. In the two weeks I’ve been there, I’ve learnt so much and overcome some of my biggest fears. It is said that you get nothing for free, but I have to disagree… I would chose the month of volunteering I’m currently doing over a paid office job, any day of the week. It is exciting and fulfilling and ultimately, it makes me so happy to be able to witness even the smallest of developments in the children I’m working with. 

I think it’s clear to see that I am a big proponent of youth volunteer work. I know that part of this passion comes from my parents; my mum works as a deputy head teacher in the Jewish primary school that my siblings and I went to, and my dad works for the biggest UK Jewish charity. Proud sister alert, but as of last night not only had my siblings and I each won a Jack Petchey award for volunteering, but my sister won the Saul Keene award, an incredibly prestigious and special award for outstanding commitment to her volunteering work with children.

Volunteering has given all of us so many brilliant experiences, from weekends away to heritage trips to careers. It has allowed us to find a place in our community, and know we are helping other children and young people become the leaders we wish to be one day.

Now, as I’ve written a million times, I know that I’m lucky. I stumbled upon my volunteering niche by chance, but I am certain that each person has one. A recently survey found only 32% of young people volunteer at least once a month, but that number could and should (in my humble opinion) be so much higher. Whether that is visiting elderly people in a care home, playing with homeless cats at a sanctuary, or hosting a coffee morning to raise money for charity… there truly is an option out there for everyone. Not only will it positively impact the lives of those you are helping, but provide you with invaluable experiences that are good for your CV, your heart and your mind.

Orli West is in her second year at Birmingham University where she is studying Education.

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July 04, 2018 13:25

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