Making a difference – how volunteering helps me

This week I heard someone giving a presentation about their volunteering role with a disabled and disadvantaged children’s charity.  The passion with which she spoke about the work and how much it gives to her made me think about my own role as a volunteer and how much it gives to me.

Whilst I started working with Mind, the mental health charity in order to build up my counselling practice hours, like most of their volunteer counsellors do, I intend to carry on doing it for as long as I practically can.  Yes it takes up a large chunk of my week every week, yes it’s a big commitment and I don’t get paid for it, or for my expenses, but I still believe that I get more out of it than I put in.

I get invaluable practice, with clients who possibly present the biggest challenges that I deal with in my counselling work.   The work I do with Mind helps me in my private practice work enormously.  But I also feel as though I really can make a difference – being involved in helping someone to feel better, happier, calmer, even if just a bit, feels so good.

Mind provides a fantastic service to those living with, or affected by, mental health issues.  Not just counselling, but courses, groups, training, advice and support and more. Sadly, in these times when national mental health services seem to be in crisis, and can only deal with the tip of the iceberg, charities like Mind provide much needed services to those who cannot get access to help any other way.  And perhaps more importantly, Mind works tirelessly to improve the perception of mental health issues nationally. However, like many charities, Mind receives no funding and therefore relies on fund raisers, corporate partnerships and donations and volunteers like myself in order to keep offering those services. My local rugby team is currently a sponsor of Mind, watch this video about why it’s important to them:

So, being a volunteer there means that I feel part of an organisation that is doing a fantastic job, and that feels great.  I also find the work that I do at Mind incredibly humbling sometimes.  Some of the people I work with have faced incredibly difficult challenges in their lives, and their strength to carry on, and to keep improving their lives never ceases to impress me and helps me to put my own problems into perspective.  People often ask me if it isn’t ‘depressing’ counselling people with mental health issues – and my answer is always the same – no, I leave there each week feeling incredibly uplifted and also privileged, to be able to help make a difference.

I’d highly recommend volunteering to anyone,  as I am certain that the benefits outweigh the effort or input. There are lots of volunteering opportunities, and most areas have a local volunteering organisation that can help to match people up with suitable positions.  Before I started I wondered how I would find the time to fit it in, but now I prioritise it as the one thing in my calendar that is unmovable.  Even if you cannot give as much time as I do, or as regularly, think about what time you could spare, or what you could do, and investigate local opportunities,  If you can’t spend time as a volunteer, perhaps you can help by being a fund raiser, or at least by donating to causes that are important to you.  I firmly believe that in this life we get more back than we put in – but that works in both the negative and the positive, so make sure that you’re making a positive contribution and you will reap rewards, it’s guaranteed!

Image (c) San Jose Library 2009 - Flickr Creative Commons



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