This paper reviews the importance and impact volunteering brought to my personal experience and development. The paper begins with the understanding of volunteering, the organization and the motivation for me to be part of the organization. The report also provides a detailed explanation of my volunteering experiences how these experiences helped me to enhance my interest, development and academic skills. Furthermore, the paper concludes with my future plans on volunteering along with the appendices of attendance log and professional conduct form.
This report examines the areas experienced in volunteering. It focuses on the nature of engagement in deprived areas, as well as the benefits volunteering have created. The report is designed to give an opportunity to critically reflect upon the volunteering experiences and demonstrate what is learned, from an academic as well as practical perspective. Evidence of the contribution is also included in the report.
“Volunteering is defined as an activity or a choice freely made by individuals that involve spending time, unpaid and doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone“(NCVO – Volunteering, 2020). Contradicting to this definition, few scholars argued that young people are urged to volunteering to stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs (Holdsworth, 2015) and some “Bona fide” volunteers are paid with reimbursement for expenses, reasonable benefits and/or nominal fees for services (Herman, n.d.). The most common notion was that it involved a cost to the volunteer which was greater than any benefit they might receive from the activity. Many other authors’ stated volunteers can cultivate ‘soft skills’ that is desired in the employment market (Rego et al., 2016) with a sense of worth (Nicholas at al, 2011). Concerning politics, few researchers found that successive UK Governments have used volunteering to address a variety of politically desirable ends (Rochester et al., 2013) and was often framed as a ‘panacea’ for social problems, such as the ‘threat of disaffected youth’(Davies, 2017) while others see it as a way of developing desired citizenship attributes (de St Croix, 2017) in young people, often orientated towards preparing them for the labour market (Holmes, 2009) rather than challenging social inequalities (Davies, 2017). To sum up, so many preconceptions and stereotypes have become attached to volunteering that makes it difficult to conceptualize and define and it remains unclear whether employees volunteer to build on meaningful work experiences or to compensate for the lack of them.
Volunteering Sectors often referred by multiple names like non-profitable sectors, third sector or civil society refers to organizations whose primary purpose is to create social impact rather than profit. Charities are the largest single category within the voluntary sector with over 165,000 charities in the UK (Reach Volunteering, 2020). Though it has to be a non-profitable sector, there are many questions concerning if they are profiting from their services (Ellis, 2000). Due to the limitation of the word limit on the report, an elaborated research explanation is not provided.
Understanding of the Organisation
I chose to volunteer for a charitable non-profitable organisation, ISRA.
ISRA-UK was started in 1984 as a mission and relief to poverty worldwide with the support of the public to tackle and to save the lives of millions of people dying from poverty every year. They aimed to act with the wisdom of gentleness and kind concern for those who are not able to help themselves. ISRA has been serving humanity for over 35 years with the help of volunteering support. We tackle poverty and save lives by providing food, water, implementing empowerment, and emergency program around the world.
ISRA has been part and parcel of many missions. In Jan 2020, ISRA-UK were on the ground in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, distributing essential Winter aid to Syrian refugees, who for 9 years, have been left isolated in a camp called Arsal. They wanted to distribute at least 1000 food packs to refugee families helping them not to fear of where the next meal will come from. They were involved in water programs serving water to communities where without water, food can’t be grown, the house can’t be built, and children walked miles to find water. They aimed to build solar submersible pump in Sindh Pakistan, spring well in Uganda and supply 250 litre tank filled with safe drinking water in Gaza. They are also involved in sponsoring orphans and supporting them in their areas of need. They are also implementing a Walnut Tree program in Kashmir Pakistan for poor farmers. In 2017 they were also involved in gifting a sheep to each family in East Africa as they believed Livestock provides communities with family stability, food, and income. The main focus of ISRA UK is its long-term Aid Programmes which provide supported assistance to the helpless communities and providing emergency relief and helping those affected immediately by providing food, water, medicine, shelter and clothing where needed (israuk.org, 2020).
Motivation for volunteering with the Organisation
I was introduced to ISRA by one of my friends. I followed this organization on social media to understand their amazing project which created a determination in me to join the organization on the 13th November 2019. Now it is almost 6 months, I am serving and volunteering through ISRA.
I am pleased and thankful to ISRA for believing in me and provided me with the opportunity to help serve society. My main motive was to create a difference to the society by helping the needy as it builds in me immense happiness. Moreover, I was also aware of the fact that volunteering would help me to improve my skills, be creative, possess strong teamwork, take initiative and manage time effectively as I believe all these are significant skills required in life that can help me to manage numerous situations and challenges. Last but not the least, Volunteering is always a different experience and I believe it will create a positive impact on my career as employers recognise the extra dimension that volunteering brings. A study by (Thoits and Hewitt, 2001) found that “volunteering contributes to improved well-being including better self-esteem, psychological health, and happiness”. The unanticipated by-products of volunteering for me is that I have met people who have become friends, I have developed as a person, improved me by default low self-esteem and learned new skills. I also have had some perplexing opportunities for becoming a volunteer than I would not normally have had.
Contextualisation of Experience
“Higher education has always been about much more than simply getting a degree and Universities have a vital role to play in supporting social, intellectual and cultural life in the UK through their engagement with the public” (NCCPE, 2010). My experience with ISRA encompassed more than solely work which characterised adapting to a whole new environment and building a social network. My task was to meet the homeless and needy people on the streets to provide them with food and clothing. We were a group of 5 volunteers who planned to meet every Saturday from 8 PM to 12 PM during the winter months at Old Square, Birmingham city centre along with a different volunteering community. Our team followed a good practice guideline and proactively supporting the people from different backgrounds. Working with the team I learned to communicate rightly and building a rapport with them.
We met at least a total of 40 helpless people. We distributed food which was mainly prepared from homes like Coffee, hot soup, tea, Biryani, Kebab, fruits, sweets and cakes. We provided them with essential warm clothes, gloves, socks and scarfs. Volunteering helped me build up decision-making ability along with improving my organisational and planning skills. Social work has allowed me to meet various kinds of people from different backgrounds and we were able to motivate many people from different streams especially the homeless.
There were times when we had many leftover foods where I and my friend proactively decided to travel along the streets as we believed homeless people were lying on the roads. One of the most eye-opening experiences was when I met a homeless man who was bleeding on his leg. We provided him basic first aid help where we cleaned his wound and tied his leg with a bandage, provided him food and accompanied him till the ambulance reached the premises. With these upcoming issues, I learned how to tackle problems and thereby building up problem-solving skills.
Apart from these, I was also responsible for managing and coordinating for the distribution of the charity box in multiple shops in Birmingham for collecting funds to support the needy. I thank ISRA for designing the volunteer in me, appreciating and treating me to some amazing experiences along the way. I believe I have gained a sense of achievement and satisfaction in my role and in the knowledge that I have personally helped people.
Critical reflection and Self-Evaluation of learning Experience
Since joining the team, I have progressed to being a senior volunteer where I have a wide understanding of the voluntary sector. I was able to socialise, connect with new people and develop new skills. Volunteering created a positive impact on my health and happiness. It helped me to reduce stress, stimulate mentally and provide a sense of purpose. It helped me to work on my communication skills, increase social and relationship skills, improve team-building capabilities, problem-solving and process planning as it involves coordination with multiple stakeholders. It helped me to learn timely coordination, manage multiple tasks and teamwork. Volunteering motivated me and created in me a self-confidence. It helped me not only to learn new skills but also discovered the potentials in me.
The feedback from the organization was positive as they valued the contribution and thanked us for our personality traits and interpersonal skills. They offered me the opportunity to deepen my knowledge on personal growth, learn how to handle professionalism, present with confidence, collaborate within teams and manage projects effectively. I am very thankful to them and will continue to be an active member of their organization.
“Community work helps students interact with people using sociological ideas in an applied way” (Zevallos, 2013). In relation to my academics, Volunteering boosts economic productivity and improves the social skills of workers. Volunteering relates to socialism that supports a social cause. Through my volunteering session, I was able to get involved and practice socialism. I was able to convey on anti-smoking, anti-drug awareness to the people. I was also able to network and work with different people. According to Dan “when we make those cultural changes, we find the social and political changes are much easier because we have a widespread support for it. Also, the current political culture has created an increase in volunteerism. “Volunteering Is Inherently Political” (Ellis, 2000) as volunteering is proactive support of an organization, cause or issue. Through my experience, I was able to imply social philosophy and political beliefs by taking action in taking care of the vulnerable people in the society. I am also thankful to my university mentor in guiding me throughout the program.
In the future, if I get an opportunity and the power to influence change, I would like to bring changes to the society of the needy and homeless. I would make sure the homeless are not lying on the streets and the footpaths in the whole of the United Kingdom. My goal is to make sure shelter, food and other basic amenities are provided and also a de-addiction program will be organised for the people who are under addiction to drugs, smoking and alcohols. By strongly agreeing to the statement of scholar William James “Act as if what you do makes a difference”, I believe it is not hard for any individual to create positive social and political change for envisioning to a better world.
Overall this study has enhanced my personal experience, development skill and brought me closer to achieve the outcome of my course that accord my goals of volunteering. Motivation and frame of mind were illustrated as the foundation of the volunteering experience. Participation in social activities impacted on multiple identities and provided a chance for me to explore such options. Through this experience, I was able to relate to volunteering to socialism and politics. I will continue to volunteer for ISRA and put into practice what I am learning as it is beneficial to me as well as my organization.
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