Our second Volunteers’ Week Spirit Story has been suuplied by John Sennett.
Enter John Sennett...
"John Sennett, a volunteer veteran brings to life his passion for helping others and the charity sector, by running the blog, John’s Road to Volunteering.
John’s Road to Volunteering is a platform sharing a volunteer’s journey into inspiring, motivating and educating others, whilst giving others an opportunity to share their story."
John has kindly written a piece entitled "What happened? Why did I fall in love with volunteering?" - over to you John (many thanks!):
It’s the time of the year where the sector comes together to celebrate the unsung heroes of today’s society; that being volunteers.
I remember when I first volunteered and the hesitant feeling I was experiencing wondering whether it was something I’d like or an activity I’d find a waste of time.
Having the bad perception of volunteering made me want to discover what the term ‘volunteering’ actually meant, and I don’t think there’s actually a definition, as volunteering is different for each volunteer.
You can probably guess that I’m still volunteering today otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, and 53 months on from my original meeting, my life has changed.
I was once the guy who saw volunteering for its unpaid nature and its lack of purpose, yet my story has now been read by 100,000s around the world.
What happened? Why did I fall in love with volunteering?
I experienced the warm, family nature called volunteering. I fell in love with giving time to those in need, as without a listening hear, someone willing to put words into action, and individuals/groups showing no-one is every truly alone, what would the world be today?
Volunteering is a self-rewarding activity, knowing with every hour given, someone out there will be positively impacted by your actions.
The young man within learned to grow up. I feel we can’t progress in life without stepping outside of our comfort zones, and that’s what I did by applying to volunteer.
It is a nerve-wracking experience when you click ‘apply’, but how can we truly know if something is right for us without giving it a try? How can we know what volunteering is unless we give an hour of our time?
Sitting in the reception at Pavilion on the Park in 2012, I was unaware how my life would change the second I applied to volunteer, and I have a lot to thank the charity for. Pavilion on the Park welcomed me into their volunteering family with open arms, and somehow helped me to realise who I was as a person.
The beauty of volunteering isn’t the amount of impact you make in the time you give, it’s what happens outside of those hours. Not only have I learned a lot about myself thanks to volunteering, it’s awoken a passionate campaigner in me, to ensure others have equal opportunities and stories are heard.
My story would have never started in the first place without the amazing Volunteer Coordinator at Pavilion on the Park. I stepped into their environment with no relevant qualifications or experience, yet the opportunity to learn was presented, giving me a chance to define who I am.
Volunteer Coordinators to me are the unsung heroes, as without them, volunteers wouldn’t have roles to go to or the incredible support we have in developing ourselves for the future.
Talking about roles, how do I find roles to suit me and what roles are available for the ‘average joe’?
I had no clue what to look for, where to look and what was available in 2012, but quickly learned, when you volunteer, volunteer where your heart is.
- Have you got a passion you’d love to explore?
- Experienced a hard time in life and want to give back to say thanks?
- Got your eye on a specific career, but need experience?
Knowing I wanted to kick-start a new career for myself after going from job-to-job, I started where my personal experiences lied.
My sister suffered a stroke at the tender age of 21, and things haven’t been the same since. Noticing the looks she receives, how people exclude her due to the way she walks and talks, I wanted to act. I wanted to act and to put this at the heart of my work.
London 2012 kick-started this thought to volunteer, when I attended the Paralympics, and the way the crowd came together to celebrate the dedication the athletes put in to compete, drove the passion I now have for equality.
Learning what works for you, makes finding a volunteering role a little easier. I went to do-it.org to find my first role, and the site helped me to break down my wants and needs to find the role for me.
How do you find a role when you’re on a tight schedule?
I pointed it out earlier in this post about how I was looking for a new career, and I decided to leave my current job to start from scratch. I had more time on my hands to give to the community and to figure my life out, yet time isn’t a factor when you’re volunteering, you are!
You’re the barrier that’s stopping you to volunteer, knowing from my own personal experiences how flexible charities are.
- Are you a parent with only time free when your children are at school?
- Free only on the weekends, and not wanting to travel far?
- Want to bring your friends along and give back together?
Asking yourself a few simple questions and understanding why you want to volunteer and when you’re available, makes a significant difference for yourself and for the charity you’re approaching.
Volunteering roles can be one off, a few weeks, a few months, even a few years depending on the role, and this is why I recommend before you apply, you know what you’re looking for.
I talk about this, but during my volunteering journey, I’ve taken on roles I originally didn’t believe would be right for me, and yet I thoroughly enjoyed my time. Volunteering really is individual and you have to go with how you feel about a charity, the role on offer and your wants and needs.
Remember, volunteering is a two-way process and the impact you make on the charity’s service users, the impact should also reflective your progression too.
Giving my time to the community has helped me to grow, to learn more about myself and my influence, and to give me a sense of purpose in life. Maybe it’ll do something similar for you too?
How will you know though unless you give volunteering a try?
You can read more about John's story via his regular blog (John's Road to Volunteering) at: johnsroadtovolunteering.com.
You can read more about Volunteers' Week 2017 at: volunteersweek.org.
If you'd like to know more about volunteering and ways that you can get involved, visit the Volunteer Centre Manchester website: www.volunteercentremanchester.co.uk or call 0161 830 4770.
You can find your local Volunteer Centre at: www.ncvo.org.uk/ncvo-volunteering/find-a-volunteer-centre.