We’re celebrating Volunteers’ Week!
Volunteers play a crucial role in our society, a fact that has become even more evident during the coronavirus pandemic, which saw thousands of people volunteering to support the country’s COVID-response, be it through delivering medication and supplies, sewing scrubs for frontline healthcare workers, or becoming a befriender to isolated or shielding individuals.
There are around 163,000 voluntary organisations in the UK, including charities, community groups, and public sector organisations, who every day rely on volunteers to run their services, and according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), in 2016 the estimated value of formal volunteering equated to approximately £23.9bn.
Volunteers’ Week, which takes place every year from 1-7 June, provides an opportunity to celebrate the work of volunteers across the country and thank them for the vital contribution that they make to both our communities and our economy.
In recognition of the event, we caught up with one of our Medigold Health colleagues, Marketing Assistant Paula Mateus, who regularly volunteers for the charity UCKG Helpcentre (www.uckgoutreach.org), to learn about her experience and why we should all consider getting involved in volunteering.
Here’s what she had to say:
Where do you volunteer?
Since the pandemic began, the UCKG Helpcentre has started running soup kitchens and food banks in most of their branches across the UK. I currently volunteer at the Sheffield Food Bank on Saturdays from 11am – 1pm.
What work do you do as a volunteer there?
I pack and arrange the food distributed from our partnering company, welcome the people needing to use the service, and give them their food parcel for the week.
How did you first get involved in volunteering?
I first got involved in volunteering as I wanted to do more for the community. I am a regular volunteer at the Helpcentre and have previously volunteered as a youth mentor, visiting nursing homes, and donating gifts to children in the hospital. When the pandemic happened, I wanted to continue to help and volunteering at the food bank provided the perfect opportunity to do that.
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
I thoroughly enjoy helping others – nothing beats seeing someone who is in desperate need getting their basic necessities given to them. We have people from all walks of life coming through the doors and I love putting a smile on their faces. There are times when people break down in tears simply because they are receiving food. I listen to their stories and give them a word of encouragement. I also get the chance to make new friends. I enjoy everything about it.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about volunteering?
Do it! The secret about volunteering is that it helps us more than we can imagine. When you give to someone in need, you are giving back to the community and contributing to bettering our society. There are many things in life that money can’t buy and one of those things is kindness.
“When you give to someone in need, you are giving back to the community and contributing to bettering our society.”
Marketing Assistant Apprentice
Volunteering doesn’t only benefit the people you’re serving. Whatever your motivation to start, whether you want to give back to a specific organisation that has had an impact on your life, help protect the environment, or make a difference in your community by helping people who are more vulnerable or less fortunate than yourself, the act of giving your time and being kind can have a significant positive effect on your own mental wellbeing. too.
Feeling part of a team and helping others has been shown to help reduce stress, boost mood, and improve confidence and self-esteem through giving us a sense of purpose. Volunteering also provides an opportunity for social interaction and a chance to make new friends, both of which are important for maintaining good mental health. You may even gain some new skills and valuable experience along the way, which could enhance your future career prospects.
If you’ve been inspired by Paula’s story and would like to find out more about how you can get involved in volunteering, check out volunteersweek.org/get-involved-for-volunteers/becoming-a-volunteer or visit the NCVO’s website.
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