During my years at university, I had the opportunity to do 60 hours of volunteering. This is something that I had never done before, and it’s taught me a lot.
My two volunteering experiences were very different in both context and setting. By the end of my first year, I had completed 36 hours of volunteering. I got these hours through the International Volunteering HQ in Madrid. I spent two weeks in the Spanish capital, helping autistic children and providing companionship to them. This experience opened my eyes to how widespread and severe autoimmune conditions are across the world. Moreover, living in a house with all the other volunteers; sharing facilities and meals, provided me with the best mindset before even starting the placement!
During my second year, I spent another 24 hours volunteering for a local charity called The Widows’ Empowerment Trust. This charity helps widows and elderly people with everyday problems, especially loneliness. I participated in bag packing events in the biggest shopping centres around Greater Manchester, helping the charity to raise the funds needed to run their activities.
How It Helps
Giving in the form of volunteering can impact our own wellbeing. First and foremost, it gives you the experience of teamwork and socialising. Working together with other people to help someone else makes you aware that what really defines us as humans is our social interactions and the ability to cooperate smoothly.
Moreover, it teaches you something vital for your future; namely, to do something without expecting anything back. During my experience with autistic children, I have learned that despite your efforts, they might not even notice what you are doing for them. However, knowing internally that you are making their problems a bit easier even for a couple of hours is enough of a reward.
Besides, volunteering is a great way to be surrounded by people spreading positivity, which can be really helpful if you are going through a tough time yourself. In Madrid, I met incredible people from all around the world, and I was been even hosted by some of them during the last spring break in San Diego! (Who said that volunteering is only about giving?)
Finally, volunteering both abroad and here in Manchester during my everyday life has taught me that volunteering experiences can be as diverse as you make them. It can be a full-immersion experience with difficult tasks outside of your comfort zone, or it can be as simple as packing groceries and helping distribute leaflets. The classic excuse of “I can’t find something that suits me!” just isn’t true. Whoever you are, you can find a way to Give that suits you and will benefit your own wellbeing as well as someone else’s.
By Antonio Villani