Wednesday 18th May
Volunteering – doing something, especially to help other people
Eva Alos, ESF Project Manager, volunteers her time to support Reengage. We spoke to Eva to find out why she volunteers, what she gets out of it, and what it brings to her role in the Skills Hub.
Why do you volunteer?
I volunteer for many reasons, including to give something back to society, in particular the community and to help others that might have more needs than I do. We don’t all have the same opportunities in our lives, I’ve been lucky to have had chances that aren’t available to all and it is important to share to make the world a fairer place.
What volunteering do you do?
I currently volunteer as a driver for an organisation called Reengage. The organisation provides life-enhancing social connections for people over 75.
Have you done other kinds of volunteering previously?
I’ve previously volunteered for Birch, which offers hospitality and friendship to asylum seekers. I volunteered as a befriender to a young person from Eritrea who was seeking asylum in the UK. He came to the house once a week and we talked, played games and made him feel at home, supported, and appreciated. I supported a second young person from Eritrea, also through Birch. These people were made to feel welcome and supported to understand UK culture.
What skills have you gained from doing volunteering?
I’ve gained a huge number of skills and also enhanced skills I already had. Organisation is a key skill involved in volunteering, I had to make sure that I had the time to give to the charity and person that I am supporting as they are depending on you.
Social skills are incredibly important and also social awareness. I had to be socially aware when working with the asylum seekers from Eritrea as there were sensitive issues around their experiences and I had to consider the questions I asked them. Equally the volunteering I currently do with the elderly, I have to be mindful of how I relate to them and conscious of issues that they are facing. I do a lot of engagement with these people, share some of my own life and find themes to complement our conversations to make sure we both enjoy our time together.
Volunteering has increased my empathy for people and also given me a stronger appreciation for safeguarding and it’s importance in many social situations. Having an understanding of safeguarding makes you aware of other people and how you relate to them which can be taken when you go other places.
How have you transferred these skills to your work?
I have transferred my enhanced organisational skills to all areas of my life, including work. It is important that I organise my time carefully to work, volunteer, and have a work life balance, so taking this skill into work has supported that. I have also strengthened by ability to focus on what I’m doing. My taking this focus to work I have been able to ensure that I am concentrating on what needs to be done and completing each piece of work before moving onto the next ensuring that each element is finished in its entirety.
And relationships, I have to develop good relationships through my volunteering as it’s part and parcel of supporting that person, and it’s a very enjoyable part of it. That translates at work because having strong working relationships and a good environment is very important and the skills that apply to once are apply to the other. They may have slightly different codes of behaviour but the overarching ideas are the same.
Would you recommend volunteering and why?
Absolutely, I think it’s incredibly rewarding. On a personal level it’s rewarding because I know I’m making a difference to the people that I’m helping. I would also recommend it to enable people to develop a set of skills that you might not have or it might enhance current skills that you already have. You might become more organised, you might live more for the moment and be better focused, and it will definitely enhance your social relationships.
Why should businesses consider supporting volunteering?
Undertaking volunteering through work, as a team effort can reap a lot of rewards, building team spirit and increasing team cohesion. It can also support the local community, I’ve previously done painting, gardening for a community project and supported a school with summer activities. The tremendous effort we put in brought the team much closer together which then translated back in the office.
Volunteering is sometimes seen as time away from work and not seeing that bigger picture of the rewards that the business reaps. There are several ways to look at it, the business could lose one day of productivity or in could enhance team spirit and create a team that will support each other daily in work. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Learning at Work week is not just about formal training but understanding what your business can put in place to increase whole team skills, be that communication, resilience, or confidence. These skills cannot be taught in the classroom but are key to making sure your business is strong enough to continue to grow in these changing times.
If you’re unsure how to identify skills gaps that may exist in your business the Skills Hub team can support you through our free Training Needs Analysis. We can then support you to understand how to fill those gaps, be in through formal training or getting out there and giving something back to your community.