Lend a helping hand

By at home

If you’re seeking that plum job or want a challenge, volunteering can provide essential experience.

Voluntary work is about giving your time to do something useful, whether it’s helping out in a care home, cooking dinner at a homeless drop-in centre or helping children with their reading at school. Anyone can do it, if you’re at the beginning or end of your career, working or unemployed. It’s easy to get started. Find your local volunteer centre on the Volunteering England website (www.volunteering.org.uk) to help you locate local organisations. Or search www.vinspired.com for lots of exciting volunteering activities. The kind of volunteering you take part in depends on how much time you have, and where your particular skills and interests lie. The opportunities are endless. Here are just a few examples of volunteering you can engage in.

Children and young people
You can help make a big difference to many young people’s lives by volunteering to work at summer camps, in schools, or even assisting at your local Scout or Guide clubs, for example.

Get involved 
Volunteer with leading UK charity Barnardo’s (www.barnardos.org.uk) by working at an after-school club for young people with disabilities, with residents in a disadvantaged community, in one of the charity’s many shops or offices or by raising vital funds.

Health and social care
Volunteering in this area of work involves taking care of the elderly in care homes and in their own homes. It also involves supporting people with health problems and physical disabilities.

Get involved
Help people in crisis by volunteering at The British Red Cross (www.redcross.org.uk). Roles range from working alongside the emergency services to providing assistance for sick and disabled people.

Animal welfare
Working with animals can be very rewarding and some of the many opportunities include monitoring local wildlife, working at local community farms and looking after injured animals.

Get involved 
Volunteers at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA, www.rspca.org.uk) engage in fund-raising, running shops, clinics or welfare centres.

All kinds of sports, including athletics, rowing, cricket and wrestling, need volunteers. Sports clubs offer the best opportunities and roles vary from coaching, refereeing and administration
to driving and management.

Get involved 
Consider volunteering as a lifesaver or a lifeguard at The Royal Life Saving Society UK (www.lifesavers.org.uk). You could get experience of training people in water safety, rescue techniques and life support.

If landscape conservation, community regeneration or monitoring nature levels appeal to you, perhaps you should consider volunteering in this field. It will look great on your CV and could lead to jobs in the sector.

Get involved 
Help the campaign for the protection of the environment by volunteering at the Friends of the Earth (www.foe.co.uk) offices and local groups. You may be a point of contact for journalists or help out with admin.

There are several volunteering opportunities to be found at museums and galleries up and down the country, where you can interact with visitors, lead tours or help with admin behind the scenes.

Get involved 
If you’re interested in volunteering at a museum, and perhaps hope to have a career in the industry, download a volunteering membership form at the Museums Association website at www.museumsassociation.org

Why give it a go?
It benefits your community and can have a positive impact on your life…

  • You get the satisfaction of time and effort well spent.
  • It’s a great way to meet people.
  • It helps to build your confidence.
  • It’s a practical way of keeping up skills and learning new ones.
  • It boosts job prospects – 73% of employers prefer candidates with volunteering experience, according to a survey by TimeBank.

Going abroad
Gap years aren’t just for students. Overseas voluntary work is getting increasingly popular with people seeking a challenge a career break.

UK agencies can place volunteers abroad on projects ranging from two weeks to several years, involving everything from building schools to saving rainforests. Those with key skills, such as medicine or teaching are always in demand, but there are opportunities for anyone prepared to work hard for little financial reward. Always check out agencies offering placements and ask to be put in touch with someone who has worked with them before. If you want to volunteer overseas, visit www.worldwidevolunteering.org.uk and www.vso.org.uk websites.

Pictures: getty images

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