The Challenges and Rewards of Volunteering
Becky Smart wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do when she came out of college, so instead of moving forward in her studies, she chose a bigger unknown: a volunteering trip to Borneo.
Becky first volunteered at 19 years old. She had been a charity director at school and wanted to continue doing charity work, but she also wanted to travel. She decided to look into how she could combine both of these wishes and found her opportunity with Raleigh International. Becky went off to Borneo in the summer of 2013 for a five-week volunteer trip. She loved it so much, she volunteered for Raleigh International a second time, three years later in Costa Rica.
The experience was challenging, and Becky said she pushed herself physically and mentally – more than she had ever done before. In both Borneo and Costa Rica, Becky helped build a gravity water system. “This project took a lot of teamwork and organisation. These are two skills that have continued to help me. Being away from home was hard but you learn a lot about yourself. I came back from the trip with more confidence and independence”, Becky said.
In between her trips to Borneo and Costa Rica, Becky also volunteered in Ghana with a company called Thrive Africa. Whilst in Ghana, Becky helped renovate children’s school libraries and she also got to farm in the north of the country. Becky was in Ghana for four weeks. “I got to experience a life completely different to my own whilst also on the weekend getting to explore Ghana”, Becky said.
The biggest advice she has for someone who wants to volunteer is to “open your eyes to the world you live in. Step away from your phone and step out of the comfort zone that you may not even realise you are in. I didn’t, and when I did, I learnt so much and was so inspired by the experiences I had been a part of”.
Now 23 years old, Becky is studying for a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and Sociology at University Centre Farnborough. But she still makes time to volunteer now, although, now her work has a local focus. “I still volunteer, this time more locally in a primary school. My experience in school has helped me realise that I want to be a teacher”, Becky said. She hopes to undertake a PGCE upon completing her degree.
Whilst volunteering, Becky met a lot of people from different countries and different backgrounds – people who became close friends who she still sees regularly. “I would recommend volunteering, as you don’t realise how many opportunities are available to you. There is a huge pool of people out there in the world who you wouldn’t normally interact with and volunteering gives you this opportunity”, Becky said.
“You will never experience thank yous like the ones you do when volunteering. Knowing that you have truly helped improved someone’s life is something I will always remember”, she said.
For more information about the benefits of volunteering and how to start, visit http://www.lifecoach-directory.org.uk/articles/charity-volunteer-work.html.