I saw a news article last week surrounding a study showing that among people who work, those who also volunteer in their spare time are generally happier. There can be no doubt that volunteering has many positives - the benefits for the cause you support through volunteering is obvious but it extends beyond that. Many people volunteer to improve their social lives and meet new people. It's also a great way to gain new skills which can be transferable in the job market.
I've tried and failed to volunteer for three different causes over the past few years.
The first voluntary role I applied for was with one of the youth uniformed organisations. I saw the advert on a Manchester volunteering website shortly after becoming unemployed in 2013. I wanted something productive to do with my time, other than job hunting and the idea of setting up a new unit in East Manchester really appealed as I got a lot from my experiences with them when I was younger. I also love East Manchester and still feel like it's home to me despite being a city centre-dweller now! So after an informal chat over the phone, I was invited to an initial meet-up in Droylsden with the lady who was running the recruitment and the other people who had applied to volunteer.
After the initial meeting, I felt really positive. I got on well with both girls who attended and we put together a strategy to move forward with the unit. Over the next few months we met up approximately every three weeks. In the beginning, although I didn't think progress was particularly speedy, I was unsure how quickly these things develop normally so I tried to keep positive about it all despite there being no concrete plans. We went to view a venue and decided it would be perfect but after a few weeks of deliberation, the headteacher at the school we planned to run out of, said it wouldn't be possible. No contingency plans had been made and we were starting all over again. Myself and the other prospective volunteer had little communication with the charity and for most of the time so had no clue what was going on!
A year after I originally applied, no unit had been set up. We had no venue and no sign of one. The most annoying thing was, the charity were reluctant to hand any of this responsibility over to us and instead, the whole operation was being run by someone who lived in Stoke and didn't know the Manchester area at all! After discussing it for a while, myself and the other girl decided to cut our ties with it. I had a full time job again by then and having seen no progress, was extremely frustrated. We wasted so much time attending useless meetings and training courses which amounted to nothing! The worst thing is, I was unemployed for about three months in the beginning and could've dedicated that time to another cause who may have been slightly more proactive!
My second attempt was with an animal charity in the rehoming centre. I applied over the internet when I saw there were vacancies for animal care assistants. My only ever career dream as a child was to be a vet so this was right up my street! I travelled for over an hour on two buses to take my identification documents to the centre. When I got there, the manager was rude and completely disinterested. I never went back.
Most recently, I applied to do some mentoring with a mental health charity. Once again, I applied online and was asked to attend an informal interview at the centre in which I would be volunteering. Following that, I was invited on a few different courses to make sure I was suitable for the vacancy which meant I had to take four days of holiday from work (which I was completely happy to do at the time as I believed in what the charity were trying to do). After this, a DBS check had to be completed but this was returned quickly. And then nothing...until about two weeks ago. For six months I heard absolutely nothing, during which time I was offered a bit of flexibility to my hours at work meaning I would no longer be free every Monday which is when I had planned to do the volunteering. I took it. I was finally contacted by email just recently and the wording was very much to the tune of 'we have someone for you now, get in touch as soon as possible so as not to be inconvenient'.
I just want to say here that I do not expect to have a red carpet rolled out for me because I've decided to give away some of my free time. However, I do work full time and the time commitment required for all of the above opportunities was substantial. I applied because I believed in each of the causes and wanted to do something to help them.
I've got to say, it's really put me off volunteering now. Everyone I've met has been so completely disorganised and in many cases, horrendously rude. It really makes me wonder how they've recruited any volunteers at all! I've also worked in jobs where I've recruited and managed volunteers and I would never have dreamt of treating them with the disrespect I've been shown.
I'd be happy to have my faith restored if anyone wants to share their positive experiences of volunteering?
Ps. I also want to say thanks to Jenni who brought this to the forefront of my mind after telling me about her volunteering experience!