Advantages Valuable work experience, you get a reference, a fun way to spend yout time, you can do as much or as little as you want.
Disadvantages You don't get paid, but sometimes you can claim expenses.
Ok, so you don't get paid. But you can get a lot out of doing voluntary work. There are a huge range of schemes out there, ranging from overseas work (organisations such as Raleigh International or smaller organisations) where you could be building schools, to local community based projects. There is something suitable for everyone, from painting houses to helping out in after school clubs for kids. As the work is voluntary, usually places are very flexible as to when you can help out and the types of jobs you do.My first experience of volunteering came about through my school work experience at the end of year 11. My work placement was with a Birmingham charity called Focus, which helps people with visual impairment. One of the days I spent in a day centre for deaf and blind people. I enjoyed it so much that I asked if I could help out voluntarily. Most places welcome volunteers, and I started going every Monday to help out with the deaf and blind club. I didn't get paid, obviously, but I got my lunch there and good experience and a reference out of it. I had to stop when I started college though because of my timetable.
During my year off I took part in the Princes Trust scheme, a 12 work voluntary course. I won't say too much about that here, as I will probably write a separate op on that, as there is so much I can say about it!When I started university, I heard that they had something called CUSS, students volunteering in the community. They provide training, expenses and experience. I signed up for two projects. The first involves going into a local secondary school and helping a group of 1st years (11/12 year olds) with their reading. We did a training session first about how to encourage young readers to read and how to help them with pronounciation and voice. It's a very useful project to do if you want to become a teacher. We go into the school one afternoon a week for about 2 hours and sit in the library where the children (who have been chosen by their teachers as needing a bit of extra help) come in and read to us. It is strange to be looked up to by children when only a few years ago I was at school myself! Some of them even call me "Miss", which makes me laugh! It's very rewarding to help them and see their reading improving.
The other project I am doing is called Out and About. This is done in pairs and involves meeting a local child with a learning difficulty and taking him or her out in the community, perhaps to the park, or the cinema or to a farm. The idea is not only to give the family a bit of time on their own, but to increase the young persons social circle and experiences. I am doing this with my flat mate and we had to have a lot of training, eg health and safety and child protection. I found the training extremely helpful. At the moment, we have met our young person but we haven't started taking him out yet. So I will update this as and when (obviously keeping all confidentiality as necessary) to say how it is going and what we and the young person is getting out of the scheme.I have found that as a young person the only kind of part time, paid work you can get is menial (eg, bar or shop work) which personally I don't find very stimulating or rewarding. Volunteering offers you the chance to work in much more interesting fields. It can give you ideas of what to do as a career, or what not to do! I would be interested to hear from anyone else who has volunteered and their thoughts on it. I am considering going abroad in the summer with a voluntary organisation so I have obviously caught the bug!
If you are interested, here are some useful links:www.unaexchange.org
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