I started volunteering through a placement at my university. I worked with an organisation supporting young carers, and went around once a week to support the regular staff with drop in centres and activities which give the young people an opportunity to have a break from their caring role. I mainly spent time on the arts and crafts table where we would sit and chat, or we did other fun things like ice skating!
At the time I was studying Media and English Literature and was not sure what career I would follow. Through volunteering, I learnt new skills and found a real passion for this area of work. After my volunteer placement ended, I was asked to become a paid member of staff! The young people and staff were incredible and the experience gave me lots of confidence.
At times, I found university challenging. Being in a new city and not knowing what career path I wanted to follow felt overwhelming. Spending time with the young people as a volunteer allowed me to meet new people, learn more skills and gave me a sense of belonging. I remember I would always walk home with a huge smile on my face.
When receiving feedback for my volunteer placement, the manager supporting me asked if I had ever considered following this line of work. It felt as if everything clicked in to place and I knew I wanted to work in this area. Before I had this volunteer experience, this area never even crossed my mind.
I went on to study Social Work, and have since worked with people experiencing substance misuse, learning disabilities and mental health problems. I would encourage anyone thinking about volunteering to go for it. I was so shy and nervous before I first volunteered, If only I knew how fantastic the experience would be, and for me how it ultimately led me to become a social worker! I learnt how important it is not to put yourself in to a box and keep and open mind. If you are thinking about volunteering, I would say go for it. If you were like me and a bit lost, you might find a new passion for something completely new. Or, if you already have a unique skill set, your time could be of huge value for many charities and organisations working to support vulnerable people.