Why does the university encourage volunteering? Why does every other person go to the volunteer fair? Why is it rewarded with Stellify and the Manchester Leadership Program?
If you don’t have experience volunteering, that doesn’t make you a terrible person, but it does mean you’re missing out on everything you gain from gestures of kindness, donating your time and putting yourself out there!
When I came to university, my PASS leader told me she wished she had volunteered more in her first year, and this is something in which other older students concurred. I took this to heart, and at the conclusion of my first year, I volunteered with Oxfam for 30 hours. What I’ve gained from volunteering is genuinely invaluable, and I seriously urge all students, incoming or returning, to do their part for their community if they haven’t already.
We all know that volunteering improves the quality of life for others. You help people feel safer, raise funds for important causes, improve our environment, and contribute to the global economy. But at the end of the day, besides feeling satisfied and ethically fulfilled, what do we get out of it? These are 7 personal benefits of volunteering.
1. Experience for your CV
Where I lived before university, students weren’t allowed to work, so it’s safe to say that my CV was looking rather empty. After volunteering, I could flaunt all the tasks I undertook and show my future employers that I can add value in the workplace.
2. Learning new hard and soft skills
Volunteering widens your metaphorical toolbelt with a whole range of soft, hard and transferable skills that will not just decorate your LinkedIn, but will be useful in a practical setting. Community engagement, teamwork, problem-solving and communication are just a few generic examples.
3. Contributes to prestigious awards
Volunteering for 25 hours is one of the three requirements for the Stellify Award. It’s a very achievable goal, and I was able to reach it during my first year. A couple of hours every other weekend will get you there. Furthermore, the Manchester Leadership Program has 3 different award levels based on how many hours you volunteer: 15 for Bronze, 25 for Silver, and 40 for Gold!
4. Boost your confidence and sociability
I’m not a shy person but I definitely have some trouble keeping conversation sometimes, or, at least I used to. Working with strangers for hours on end and meeting people from all kinds of backgrounds on a regular basis has made me a lot more comfortable with crowds. Of course, I had to commit myself to make an effort, but it was worth it.
5. Fill your time productively
No plans for a Saturday afternoon? Is your routine getting tedious and lackluster? Are you staying in Manchester over the winter and Easter breaks but all your friends have left? The answer is to spend your time volunteering. Trust me, it’s rewarding.
6. Learn about Manchester
When I came to Manchester I hardly left my flat. Besides lectures and labs, I had nowhere that needed me so I hardly explored the city. After signing up to volunteer with Oxfam, I got to know the Northern Quarter, and I became experienced with the bus system pretty fast.
Over the months I volunteered, I learned a lot about the people of Manchester too. I’ve spoken with some very interesting people and experienced Mancunian warmth first-hand. I’ve even traded recipes with another volunteer! If you’re an international student, volunteering will fit you right into the community.
7. Open your mind
Maybe you’re not familiar with the refugee crisis, or you don’t know much about water scarcity. Have you read up on fast fashion? The world is a complicated place and unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to resources or a privileged lifestyle. Volunteering can teach you about issues you may never even have realised affected people. An open, educated mind and compassion are important qualities of a 21st-century student who will ultimately go out and change the world.
Feeling inspired but don’t know how to volunteer?
- The university holds volunteering fairs where you can register your interest and find out when you’ll be needed.
- Lots of volunteering groups from the university have Instagram accounts, for example, @theclosetmcr, @wantnotwastemcr or @uom_onceamonth.
- Besides those, check out the university’s page @uomvolunteering for ways to get involved.
- Walk into charity shops and ask if they need volunteers. (That’s what I did!).
- Search the university’s Volunteer Hub for opportunities.
- Lastly, when an opportunity presents itself, say YES!