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Yes Iím talking to YOU. You that gets up halfway through the day at weekends before eating croissants for breakfast, settling in a warm bath for a couple of hours, sipping at cocktails and making polite conversation before finally settling down to a humongous lunch. You could be doing something worthwhile with your time, helping others, helping your waistline, utilising your skills, acquiring new skills and doing something a lot more interesting than discussing the latest political developments in Azerbaijan!
OK, so thereís nothing nicer than a lie-in on a Saturday after a gruelling week of work and an even more exhausting party on a Friday night. So why on Earth have I given up almost every Saturday morning for the last year and a half? No, for once the answer is not my total insanity. It wasnít for entirely selfless reasons either; you see the A-level equivalent course Iím doing (see opinion on International Baccalaureate Diploma) requires me to do, among many other things, 50 hours of community service. And rather than the destination for this being handed out by a judge or magistrate I had to discover something to do myself. Early trips to the Maidstone Volunteer Bureau resulted in me attending a couple of bizarre meetings with off-this-planet eco-warrior types who didnít seem to actually do anything and so I continued searching for something else. Then I spotted an appeal for volunteers in a local paper, asking for people to help construct a Millennium Green in a not-so-well-off area of Maidstone, not far from my school. I was simply instructed to turn up at 9 OíClock on Saturday morning, which, with a few friends, I did.
First up was the cement mixer. Now consider that I have always regarded cement mixers as dangerous things best avoided in life and had never in my wildest dreams imagined using one. Fortunately this was a rather silly misconception and mixing cement is actually fairly easy, if hard work. Of course I had to learn the right mix for the path bricks we were laying, which was approximately 3 and half shovel-fulls of sand to every 1 of cement. After a couple of hours of shovelling sand and cement into the mixer I was beginning to consider myself an expert and thought I was heading for a well-deserved break and decided it was someone elseís turn at the mixer. Bad move... next thing I was pushing a cement-laden wheelbarrow up a steep hill again and again and again. That stuff is heavy... so much so that the switch to wheeling bricks around was a huge relief. Finally however I received a tea break (tea, squash and biscuits provided courtesy of the wife of one of the main committee members- that is the committee who conceived and executed the idea of the green) and after that it was time to learn some of the skills Iíd been envisaging (i.e. not cement mixing) as I helped lay the first line of bricks.
And so I returned week after week for almost a year. I made several new friends , got considerably fitter and slowly saw the park develop partly due to my efforts. Landscaping, path-building, wall-building and weeding. Sounds exciting doesnít it??? Well anyway its good for you and with other people to chat to while youíre working its a bit like a cross between a social club and a gym, while being totally free and creating a nice place for the community (our own work was supplemented by play equipment installed by professionals and an essential ďmillennium featureĒ; a locally designed statue). It is now a very pleasant area to walk through, sit in, play football etc., although there is a small problem with vandalism I gather; itís a shame that the efforts of so many people are ruined by a few wasters! Anyway involvement in the project certainly gave me a great deal of satisfaction and I would recommend a similar scheme to anyone not shy of physical work.
~How Can I Get Involved In Voluntary Work.~
Of course there isnít any real limit to the types of voluntary work to be done. From helping out with disabled people (I for example assisted a one-day scheme called ďKidís OutĒ that took disabled children round Chessington World of Adventure), elderly people, youth groups, environmental management, neighbourhood watch, animal welfare, counselling/advice and many other schemes. There are schemes that require different levels of input; even if youíre desperately overworked surely one day a year can be spared to help others have a good time, whereas if you are less busy then one day a month, or even a week can be a great help. Volunteering doesnít have to be official; helping out with a school trip or even picking up litter is worthwhile even if on a smaller scale.
If you want to get involved in something then check local newspapers (especially free ones) to see what projects are going on and need volunteers. Failing this try to visit your local volunteer bureau, which despite my nasty comments about them being eco-warriors earlier are in fact very useful and have a register of a large variety of projects and voluntary organisations. Failing that visit www.do-it.org.uk where there is a search engine for finding projects in your area, along with lots of ideas, advice, experiences etc.
There isnít really much more I can say; the ball is in your court so to speak. The variety of volunteering work means that more detail is impossible; I simply wanted to draw attention to the possibility of volunteering work and the benefits it can bring you as well as other people; a far greater satisfaction than can be gained my simply giving money to causes, although that is certainly a good thing too! Donít feel guilty if you donít have time to help, but think of such work as enjoyment and entertainment rather than a chore!
PS: With regards to category I know it isn't a career (although it can be) but this seems like a good place to put it.
Your op has inspired me. Well done on what you've achieved - fantastic op :)
criple 29.08.2002 23:46
You can gain much satisfaction from voluntary work and when my health improves I would love to do something maybe with the elderly or homeless.
Nameless 27.06.2002 19:30
I think voluntary workers deserve a lot of praise, it takes a lot to do something for nothing (cashwise) but the rewards I got for working for free at Barnardos playschemes for disabled kids were amazing. The feeling is great and it makes you feel good about yourself - nice op :)