Post by Jenifer Doherty, retired volunteer
Much is made of the gap-year student who heads off to foreign climes to help build schools or save animals, but there is a quiet workforce of volunteers who keep organisations afloat closer to home. They do not ask for recognition or reward, they simply aim to do a good job.
When someone mentions the word ‘volunteering’, visions of university students on trips to Borneo to save the Orang-Utan, or career-break workers who help build schools in third-world countries tend to arise. However, charity, as they say, begins at home and there are a wealth of opportunities available for voluntary work in your local area.
Making a difference
There are so many charitable organisations that depend on an army of volunteers to keep them afloat. From countrywide organisations to small, independent local charities, the world of the volunteer is every bit as diverse as the world of paid employment. Volunteer work can be as involved or as occasional as you like, with some volunteers doing almost full-time hours for the cause and others filling in on an ‘as and when’ basis. The main idea is to see that the needs of the organisation are fulfilled and that you provide your time and skills for the good of the cause.
Retired individuals make up a substantial part of the population and have between them gathered a wealth of experience and skills that should not go to waste. Although retirement brings with it opportunities of its own, the chance to give something back to society can provide fulfillment for someone who may be lacking a focus or direction in life. Even those who may not be physically able to work outside their home any more can make a difference in the volunteering community.
A new way to volunteer
There are now many opportunities to provide time and skills on a voluntary basis without ever having to leave your home. Online volunteering is an ever-widening choice and this can be perfect for those who have time, health or monetary restrictions on their availability. Administrative support for various charitable organisations can be done from the comfort of your own home; all you need is a computer and internet access in order to help make a difference. Other online volunteering opportunities include mentoring schemes for young job seekers, or feature writing for environment groups. Those with good written English can help in all sorts of ways, especially in providing a voice for those who cannot express themselves clearly. Volunteering is all about using your existing skills to make a difference in someone else’s life and no matter how insignificant you think that contribution may be, it could make a real difference to someone.
Whatever your skills and whatever your availability, there is a volunteering opportunity that is perfect for you. You may not be breaking down international barriers or saving entire species from extinction, but in your own quiet way, you could be making a contribution to your local community and getting a sense of purpose and well-being for yourself.
Jenifer Doherty is one of the generation of retired volunteers who is giving time to local charities. She loves travelling abroad with her husband of 40 years and believes that participating in volunteer work helps to create a sense of community spirit.