1st -12th June marks this year’s Volunteers Week, an annual celebration of the millions of people who donate their time to support various causes throughout the UK. Run by NCVO (Championing Voluntary Action), the week isn’t just a fantastic opportunity for charities and individuals to say thank you (although that in itself would be reason enough). Their website brings together a host of relevant information from showcasing voluntary roles, publishing individuals’ experiences and generally acts as a hub of information for those interested. Alongside this is a huge selection of events ranging from traditional ‘thank you’ drinks to taster sessions and recruitment evenings, truly bringing volunteering into the spotlight.

Everyone is invited to join this national celebration of volunteers and volunteering, it’s up to you to decide exactly how you join in.

Official Volunteers Week Website

Charities rely on the generosity of individuals with their time and expertise, but reading a number of posts throughout social media, it’s not just a one-way street regarding the beneficiaries. For many of the younger generation, the concept of volunteering can be considered as something you do when you’re older or even a chore to be completed, but this is by no means the case. When you talk to students they’re often focussed on new experiences or for those nearing the end of their education and considering life after, building up their CV. But what if they realised that instead of ending up in huge debt after taking that gap year to Thailand, they could mix in some voluntary work and have some of the same experiences at a smaller cost, whilst making themselves more employable in the process? If travelling and adventure doesn’t spark an interest, the potential health benefits might, with volunteering activities proving to have a positive effect on both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Research shows giving up time for altruism can make you healthier, feel less stressed and aid weight loss.

Harvard School of Public Health

Having passion about the cause and an element of positivity can influence your experience but this doesn’t mean that without these it won’t be beneficial or enjoyable. Many stories about the difference volunteering has made to them have started with an individual in a state of depression, with low morale and lacking purpose. Whether volunteering has acted as a distraction or just created a community for the individual to be part of, stepping outside your comfort zone can give you the confidence to pursue other avenues of interest.

Volunteering gave me the confidence to get back into studying.

Anonymous volunteer

The great thing is, you can invest as much or as little time as you’d like without putting additional stress on yourself because you’re trying to fit too much in your already busy life. Perhaps this means investing some of your time into mentoring a younger person, talking to someone anonymously on a helpline or even learning some team leadership skills by participating in a group project. Many organisations will have different opportunities for you to develop your skills, meet new people and broaden your horizons, you just have to look for them.

I volunteer to enjoy myself and do something meaningful with my time off.

Anonymous volunteer

So, once again, a huge THANK YOU to all of the volunteers and everyone working to make a difference, I hope volunteering can become a talking point and something that’s appreciated all year round.