Empowerment,  GUEST POSTS

Why Everyone Should Consider Being A Volunteer

Why Everyone Should Consider Being A Volunteer. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Steve Vear, MBE JP, of Toastmasters International. Steve will explore why everyone should consider being a volunteer and how volunteering has changed his life and meant he exceeded all expectations at birth. Steve was born with cerebral palsy, and his parents were told he would never be able to get a ‘normal’ job, go to a ‘normal’ school or indeed have a ‘normal’ life. Steve refused to let this stop him, and through volunteering, has led a life that has been anything but ordinary.

Why Everyone Should Consider Being A Volunteer

We’ve all had times when we have benefited from the services of a volunteer. Perhaps you have twisted your ankle and been grateful that someone from the St John Ambulance gave you first aid. Or you have found yourself adrift at sea and need help from the RNLI. The benefits that these selfless volunteers bring to the community are invaluable.

But what motivates the volunteers themselves? What makes them dedicate their time and energy to such good causes, and what rewards do they gain when they respond to the call to serve?

A Personal Journey

For many, including myself, the volunteering journey involves personal stories of resilience and determination. Having been born with cerebral palsy and hearing from my parents that doctors at the time believed that I wouldn’t be able to get a ‘normal’ job, go to a ‘normal’ school or indeed have a ‘normal’ life, I think there was an innate desire deep inside me, from a very early age, to buck the trend that life had seemingly already set for me.

My volunteering journey began while I was at secondary school. I struggled to maintain a friendship group with those able to run off to play football or chase each other. I discovered that the school library provided a haven to avoid endless fights with bullies. I would spend every break and lunchtime there for the next three years, helping other pupils find books and resources and helping the staff fix IT problems! I now appreciate this was the very start of my volunteering. However, it wasn’t until a new Physical Education teacher came along that volunteering truly began to plot a course for the rest of my life.

Cricket

This teacher decided to teach me how to score a cricket match for our school team. Shortly after, my drama teacher invited me to join my local cricket club as the weekend 2nd XI scorer. From then on, I spent every Saturday in the summer and every school holiday with a scorebook and coloured pens, feeling included and valued in a world that I had never imagined possible.

I still score cricket matches on Saturdays and have just celebrated twenty years of service with the Southern Premier Cricket League, including six years as Chair.

Cricket scoring truly expanded my volunteering career. Nineteen years ago, I became a ‘listening’ volunteer at my local Samaritans branch, where I still take calls today. This provided my first experience as a Trustee and, later, Chair of the board. I have gained ‘professional’ training and listening skills, which have, without question, made me a better leader in the workplace.

Having expressed my regret that I would never realise my childhood dream of becoming a police officer, a friend from cricket suggested I apply to join the bench as a Magistrate, a voluntary role I have been fulfilling since 2010.

The Benefits

The benefits of volunteering now seem apparent to me: it has given me my life as I enjoy it today and made me a better person. We often volunteer not for any direct benefit to ourselves but to be of service to others. As a magistrate, I serve the crown; as a Samaritan, I serve my community; and as Program Quality Director at Toastmasters International, I serve our 4,000 members in Southern Britain to help them become better public speakers and more effective leaders. When we introspect honestly with ourselves, the benefits we gain from volunteering are extensive.

We gain confidence and learn skills we don’t need to apply in earnest as we would in a job, making it a safer space to improve. Other than the motivation to want to do well for others, trying a new skill or taking on a senior position is separate from the occupational risk that exists when linked to our salary or pension. The sheer variety of things we can do as volunteers is unlikely to be matched by any career, even if it were one in which we have made many lateral moves to broaden our horizons.

Becoming A MBE

In May 2019, I found myself shaking the hands of the then Prince of Wales as he invested me as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (MBE) for voluntary service in Hampshire. What started in a school library pushing a trolley full of books and scoring a cricket match for the first time in the middle of a field eventually led me inside Buckingham Palace to be presented to our future King. That doctor was right: I wasn’t in for a ‘normal’ life. It was to be extraordinary but unlikely the one he had envisaged.

Let us all celebrate volunteering. It can be transformative. If someone comes to you with the opportunity to volunteer, do take it. Or look for opportunities in an area that you are drawn to. You’ll enrich the lives of others and, in turn, enrich your own.

I hope you enjoyed that.

Talk soon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Vear MBE JP is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. More than 400 clubs and 10,000 members are in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management.

To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org

Working with Strong women, I help empower women not to give up on their goals and find true happiness within themselves. #lifestyle #womenempowerment #selfcare

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