Volunteers Week 2016: An annual celebration of Britain’s millions of volunteers

Volunteers are at the heart of what we do here at the World Youth Organization, which is why we’re proud supporters of Volunteers’ Week, an annual celebration of Britain’s millions of volunteers.

Volunteers’ Week was started in 1984 to help us all appreciate the important roles volunteers play across communities throughout Great Britain. Between the 1st and 12th of June charities will hold events designed to show the world what their volunteers do and thank them for their contributions to society. These events will also give you the chance to get involved! If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference in your local area, there’s no better time to start than now. Volunteers’ Week lists a whole range of events on their website! Last year there were over 750 events across the country and this year promises to be even more action packed, so you’re sure to find something for you.

Volunteering is a selfless way to help others, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun! Volunteering can be a great way to meet amazing people with similar interests and can really help you to achieve something by using time that might otherwise be wasted. Volunteering is also a fantastic opportunity to develop your own skills and discover new interests that you might not have even known existed!

But don’t take my word for it, I talked to Patrick Cantellow, Founder & CEO at Swale Young People and Charlotte Hill, Chief Executive of Step Up to Serve. Both of them have first hand experience of what it means to volunteer and they understand what a rich and rewarding experience it can be.

What positive effects do you think volunteering has on young people?

Volunteering opens up many different doors for young people, I never thought I would end up wanting to work with young people and child protection, but volunteering with the NSPCC made me dedicated to advocate young people.  Some amazing facts and figures courtesy of #iwill show that 90% of young people who have taken part in youth social action said that it’s helped them develop useful skills for the future and 75% said that they feel more confident in securing a job. So youth social action is proven to improve employability, but it also develops young participants too; 80% of young people felt capable of more than they realised and youth social action is proven to lower levels of anxiety amongst participants by 22%.  Swale Young People is plugging onto this, and allowing young people to develop their own social action schemes, as well as giving them access to volunteering and participation opportunities around the UK.Patrick Cantellow, CEO at Swale Young People
We know – from the amazing stories we hear every day but also from robust evidence – that volunteering has a hugely positive impact on young people (as well as on the community).  It improves young people’s educational attainment, their health and well-being, their employability skills and increases their networks.  It also builds empathy – they can put themselves in other people’s shoes much better as a result of helping others and understanding the challenges people face.  And it’s fun!  Young people meet new people through volunteering and have a good time.  And I believe that young people bring something extra to volunteering that older generations don’t always bring.  New ideas, a fresh energy, a new perspective on old challenges.  So volunteering has a positive effect on young people, but young people also have a positive effect on volunteering!Charlotte Hill, CEO at Step Up To Serve

Do you think Volunteers Week has helped raise awareness about the benefits of volunteering?

I’m not sure, living in the Volunteers World I am surrounded by it, but it has allowed organisations like yourself to latch onto the theme to promote volunteering, so in the end, I suppose yes. The hashtag #VolunteersWeek currently has over 12 million impressions on Twitter, according to KeyHole.Patrick Cantellow, CEO at Swale Young People
I really do feel Volunteers Week helps raise awareness of volunteering and the benefits of volunteers.  What a brilliant thing – to have a week celebrating all those who give their time up and down the country to help others.  I think it helps us stop and reflect on the way ordinary people in every day settings are making the country better in their own small (or big) way.  It helps raise awareness of opportunities to get involved and promotes the benefits for the volunteers, the organisations and wider society.  We are often too quick to focus on the challenges and problems in society.  It’s important to also reflect on the positive, brilliant activity that is happening too.Charlotte Hill, CEO at Step Up To Serve

So, if you’d like to find out how you can get involve, why not check out the Volunteers’ Week website. You can also check out the great work done by Swale Young People and Step Up to Serve by following the links provided here. Also, why not check out the wonderful opportunities we offer here at the World Youth Organization. Apply to be part of our Young Reporters Program, which gives you the opportunity to get experience volunteering as a journalist for an international charity!

If you’ve been involved with Volunteers’ Week why not share your story on Twitter with #volunteersweek, or leave a comment below.

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