If you’ve ever been interested in finding out more about volunteering in the UK, this guide is for you. We answer common questions about volunteering so that you can feel confident about why people volunteer, what it entails and how you can get involved.
Why do people volunteer?
People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons, and there is no right or wrong answer. For a lot of people, volunteering is about making a difference. It is a way to go about improving the lives of others, or giving back to a community or organization you care about.
While volunteering is about making a positive contribution to society, volunteers also get a lot out of the experience. Essentially, good volunteering is rewarding for everyone involved. Here are some of the things volunteering can do for you:
What are the benefits of volunteering?
You gain new skills and experience
Whether you are in the midst of a graduate job hunt or looking for a worthwhile project to do during your summer holiday, volunteering in the UK can help you gain valuable skills and experience that will boost your CV.
Volunteering is not only advantageous for students and graduates; professionals also benefit from volunteering. You’ll find that you can volunteer in a huge range of sectors. So if you are considering moving your career in a new direction or simply want to take a break from work, volunteering can give you a taste of working in a different area.
What the experts say: Kate Edwards, who is the Volunteer Service Manager at The Abbeyfield Society says, “in a competitive job market, prospective employers want to see what makes you different from all the other candidates, and volunteering is a great way of standing out from the crowd. By demonstrating that you take part in meaningful activities in your spare time, you will show an employer that you are a well-rounded person with some interesting life experience.”
Gain confidence while doing something rewarding
That said, it’s not all about getting ahead in the workplace. Volunteering is also about your personal development. Getting involved in an issue that you are passionate about, while making a difference, is a rewarding experience. It comes as no great surprise that volunteers report a heightened sense of self-worth after volunteering. In addition, volunteers also gain self-confidence from successfully embarking on a new adventure.
And if you need any more convincing, research even shows that volunteering improves your health!
Volunteering strengthens social ties
There are also strong social benefits to volunteering. When you volunteer you get the opportunity to meet and socialize with new people. Volunteer projects in the UK are made up of volunteers from a range of different social backgrounds. When people of different nationalities live and work together, and share skills and ideas with each other, this helps break down barriers and fosters peace and understanding.
Volunteer Voice: Rozalia, from Bulgaria, who volunteered for 9 months at homeless charity the Cyrenians in Edinburgh (2015) had the following to say after her project; “Volunteering opens up a different world to you and gives you a sense of purpose. It’s a great way to meet people, hear different stories, gain a new perspective and learn to appreciate things you used to take for granted. It can be a fun new way to travel and make friends or a truly life-changing experience that makes you a more active and involved person, building deeper connections with people around you.” Read more about her experience volunteering in the UK.
Volunteering improves the lives of others
As you know, volunteering involves using your time and skills to make a positive difference. This can be through empowering people who are less fortunate than you; looking after the environment; educating others, or simply helping a community complete a certain task. Without the work of volunteers, many of these projects would not be able to happen.
Who can volunteer?
Despite some prevailing stereotypes, volunteering is not just a young person’s game. Although volunteering is indeed a great option for students or recent graduates, anyone who wants to make a positive impact – regardless of age, nationality, gender – can volunteer in the UK. At International Voluntary Service, we place volunteers coming from overseas on projects in the UK, but we also welcome volunteers based in the UK, who want to find local volunteer opportunities.
What are the volunteer opportunities in the UK?
There is a large range of interesting community-based projects in the UK. UK volunteer projects might include supporting young homeless people in Edinburgh, teaching English to teenagers and adults at refugee centres across the UK, assisting conservation work and environmental education in the Highlands, or helping run a local festival.
How long can I volunteer in the UK for?
Volunteer placements are generally flexible, and you can give as much or as little time as you want to volunteering. International Voluntary Service supports projects ranging from short-term two-week projects to twelve-month placements so that anyone who wants to volunteer can do so.
Where in the UK can I volunteer?
There are opportunities to volunteer all across the UK. Your local volunteer centre can help you find opportunities in your area.
Things to consider before volunteering in the UK
The key to a successful volunteer experience is to do your research before you go. Here are a few things that you will need to think about before you volunteer in the UK:
Flights and Travel
Usually, you will need to organize and pay for your own flights if you want to volunteer in the UK. However, if you book far enough in advance you are likely to find relatively cheap flights. You might also want to bring extra money for travelling around the UK after you have completed your volunteer project.
Food and accommodation
Food and accommodation are often provided for you, although this might vary depending on your volunteer project. Make sure you ask in advance so that you know what your budget is. You don’t want to save up money for travelling to realize you have to spend it all on groceries!
What to pack
Deciding what to pack for volunteering in the UK is fairly challenging, as the UK the weather is notoriously unpredictable! Our best advice is to expect all weather types and pack accordingly, bringing lots of lights layers. You should also find out what work you will be doing on your project so that you will be properly prepared. For example, if you are involved in conservation work you will need to bring clothes that you don’t mind working outside in.
How can I find volunteer projects in the UK?
Looking to volunteer in the UK? See what volunteer projects are available in 2016.
Do you have any questions about finding the right volunteer project? Get in touch with one of our placement officers.
If you are interested in volunteering overseas, International Voluntary Service can help both you find a short-term or long-term placement abroad.