I volunteer at an Oxfam Charity shop in Portsmouth. I wanted to volunteer to gain some experience to get a part-time job. I thought I could add the skills I learnt in the shop to my CV and get a part-time job by the end of the year.
What I actually got out of volunteering in Portsmouth is something I never imagined, it was beyond my expectations, and something I will never forget.
I started volunteering with the expectation of giving up a few hours per week to gain the skills I needed and make a positive impact on those less fortunate.
I chose to volunteer for OXFAM. Their main work is to beat poverty and inequality in a global context, which I really respect and since I was young I have been passionate about helping children and young people in developing countries. Most of the big decisions I have made, such as coming to the UK to study have been steps towards working with vulnerable children in need.
As I spent more time in the shop, not only did I gain the skills I was looking for, I made friends from different backgrounds and ages to me. My shop manager was friendly and approachable and helped me to settle. She also gave me the courage and the push I needed to apply for the role of international student ambassador.
I bonded with one of the volunteers over the recent rugby world championship in Japan as I explained the buzzed anticipation I witnessed while I was in Japan over the summer, he revealed the support for his Welsh heritage. He even gifted me with a genuine Welsh flag to take back home and show my Japanese family (my mum was thrilled).
As a person who is a non-clubber/drinker and being in a minority group of students in my course who came from overseas, I did struggle to make friends at first and felt slightly 'out of place'. This gradually changed but I was happy to be able to make social connections at the charity shop, who are unlike other friends from the university in a most wonderful way. I believe that I would never have met this remarkable group of people if I had decided not to volunteer at the shop.
Another unexpected benefit of volunteering is that the time I spend at the shop is almost like a therapy session for me. I do not think a minute about university work such as assessments and lectures, which is nice and very important.
I would definitely recommend that people who are interested in making a positive impact and willing to learn volunteer in the city. Who knows? An open-mind, respectful attitude and a genuine smile at a charity shop might go a long way and treat you to a little out of the ordinary but amazing encounters!
5 things you will experience from volunteering:
- You learn useful skills from organisation to confidence that might be useful when searching and applying for part-time or full-time jobs. The running of a charity shop may seem simple but there are a lot going on behind the scenes, and it is eye-opening to be a part of this. It will also look great on your CV!
- More social connections new friends. The fun part of making friends through volunteering is that each person is completely different such as in age and/or background. This means that we all have had completely unique experiences and getting to know them really broadens your views. Conversations you might have may be new and very enjoyable.
- Time away from constant studying for your university work that can often lead to worrying or stressful period. A few hours per week to purely spend time giving back to the community and interacting with other volunteers can be much more fun than you might think.
- You get to be a part of your local community. It can be a strange feeling and difficult if you move from a different place to another but through volunteering locally, you meet friendly locals who are happy to have a chat and get to recognise familiar faces afterwards.
- A sense of accomplishment at the end of your shift. It may be indirect impact or direct depending on the type of volunteering you do, but you know you made a difference big or small to people who really need it. Knowing this, the feeling you will experience cannot be put into words.
Written by Leon Takabe, Japan.