I’d really recommend volunteering. I started by taking part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in the summer after my GCSEs, and have continued volunteering through sixth form and my university studies. Giving back has changed my outlook on life. It’s also a great way to try out new things and push yourself to do whatever you can.
What was good about the NCS scheme? It gave me the opportunity to get involved in a local community project, addressing a real social need but in a supported and structured way. We decided to ask the public to sign a petition to raise awareness for the lack of self-harm and depression services. Throughout our research, we discovered that there was an incredibly long waiting list to speak to someone about mental health. We called the campaign 'Stamp Out Scars' and asked the public to sign plasters and stick them onto a body-shaped cut-out. We took pictures of this and sent them to the NHS and other organisations – this allowed us to promote local helplines and organisations for those who required them. We gained over 200 signatures and were told that we raised even more awareness for those local organisations. It was an empowering experience!
There are so many opportunities for volunteering when you’re at school or university. I focused on some arts projects which enabled me to do some coaching with children through dance and drama groups, and I also volunteered as a sixth form team member for my college. I’ve carried on doing volunteering as an NCS graduate and I mentored a group of NCS leaders, which was great because I was able to give back to the programme that got me involved in the first place.
If you’re thinking about volunteering, it makes sense to do something you're passionate about. So if you want to travel and see another country, then incorporate that into volunteering! Or if there's a topic that you feel needs more awareness, then go down that route. If you're completely stuck, do some research and find out what's out there. To spread awareness these days, it's easy to use social media as a platform to promote your cause, but nothing beats getting out in the community and talking about it. If people pick up on your passion, they’re more likely to feel a connection to whatever organisation/issue you’re raising awareness for.I'd love to volunteer more! I really want to go to Thailand and teach. Spending a summer in another country and doing something selfless appeals to me because it fills me with warmth to know that I'm helping someone other than myself.