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GUEST BLOGGER – TESSA SIMPSON, (Its Never 2 late 2)

TESSA SIMPSON:  BECOME A VOLUNTEER, (reposted from itsnever2late2.com)

I have, over the years, volunteered with a number of organisations. As I am still working my time is limited and I have chosen to use my skills as part of what I could offer. I have worked with Scottish Business in the Community, mainly designing and facilitating sessions on interview skills and career focus for schools, working with children who have a disadvantaged background, encouraging them to think of work as an option and one that offers more of a future than signing on the dole. Also I am a volunteer After care advisor with The Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust, working with young people starting up a business and as a mentor for other start- up businesses through Scottish Enterprise.

While becoming a volunteer takes time you get so much more back than you actually give. I would recommend it.

WHERE THE IDEA CAME FROM
Last summer I kept meeting business colleagues and friends who were bemoaning the fact that they were coming up to retirement age, or been forced into early retirement or redundancy and hated the idea of becoming invisible. They dreaded the thought of no longer contributing to society as they had energy, ideas and experience to spare. I decided to try to do something to address their needs and hence the website www.itsnever2late2.com

Creating this website has been the culmination of many years’ experience of working with people in a variety of situations. I studied psychology at University as a mature student before becoming Marketing and Public Relations Manager with a new leisure group. I have worked as a career and personal development counsellor, run management and motivational training courses and written for the press – including being Agony Aunt for the Herald for 4 years.

Here is Tessa’s advice on BECOMING A VOLUNTEER….

BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING
There are many benefits if you decide to become a volunteer. They are wide ranging for you, your local community and depending what you do, the wider world.

WHAT ORGANISATION SHOULD I CHOOSE?
Making the right choice of a volunteering match is important. If you become a volunteer for a charity that you feel strongly about your personal satisfaction and the commitment you give will be far greater than if you simply roll up to your local charity shop and offer to help because you feel you should do something.

The right match can help you find friends, reach out to the community and learn new skills. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health.

MAKE NEW FRIENDS
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. If you become a volunteer it is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, and fun and fulfilling activities.

GOOD FOR YOUR MIND AND BODY
If you become a volunteer it provides many benefits to both mental and physical health:

  • Boost your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.
  • A sense of accomplishment.
  • Pride and identity.
  • And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.

COMBAT DEPRESSION
If you become a volunteer it can reduce the risk of depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times.

STAY HEALTHY
If you become a volunteer it is good for your health at any age, but it’s especially beneficial in older adults. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain or heart disease.

LIMITED MOBILITY – CAN I STILL VOLUNTEER?
Whether due to a lack of transportation, time constraints, a disability or other reasons, many people prefer to volunteer via phone or computer. There are many projects where you can help. Writing and graphic design lends itself to working at home, and in today’s digital age many organizations might also need help with email and websites.

If you think home-based volunteering might be right for you, contact organizations you like and ask what some of the possibilities might be. Some volunteer organizations may require you to attend an initial training or periodical meetings. You also want to make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.

YOU JUST NEED POSITIVITY AND PASSION
While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable skills you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
First take some time to identify your goals and interests. Start by thinking about why you want to volunteer. Also think about what you would enjoy doing. Volunteer opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling for you.

GETTING STARTED
First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do.

For example, do I want… :

  • to make it better around where I live
  • to meet people who are different from me
  • to try something new
  • to do something with my spare time
  • to see a different way of life and new places
  • to have a go at the type of work I might want to do as a full-time job
  • to do more with my interests and hobbies
  • to do something I’m good at

The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.

FIND THE RIGHT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY
There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a volunteer position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs.

The following questions can help you narrow your options:

  • Would you like to work with people or would you rather work in solitude?
  • Are you better behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role?
  • How much time are you willing to commit?
  • How much responsibility are you ready to take on?
  • What skills can you bring a volunteer job?
  • What causes are important to you?

CAST YOUR NET WIDE
In your search for the right volunteer opportunity, don’t limit yourself to just one organization or one specific type of job. Sometimes an opportunity looks great on paper, but the reality is quite different. Try to visit different organizations and get a feel for what they are like and if you click with other staff and volunteers. The more satisfaction you have as a volunteer, the better your contributions and the more likely you’ll continue.

WHERE DO I LOOK?

  • Locally through libraries or website for your area
  • On line there is a wide and varied list of opportunities including challenges worldwide and global help swap.

GETTING THE BENEFITS
You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. It’s important to make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization.

  • Ask questions
  • Make sure you know what’s expected
  • Don’t be afraid to make a change
  • Enjoy yourself

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If you’ve been inspired to volunteer, some volunteering opportunities can be found on the Healthy Edinburgh ‘Events’ page and also through Volunteer Scotland.

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Many thanks to Tessa for sharing this informative and inspiring post.  If you would like more information from Tessa, please visit her website:

www.itsnever2late2.com

or email her at itsntlt@gmail.com

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