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Do something great: The importance of volunteering

Posted: Thursday 24th March 2016 by TheWildlifeTrustsBlogger

Our Bright FutureOur Bright Future

Laura Budden talks about the highs and lows of volunteering, and how it's changed her life for the better.

I vividly remember being stuck on a branch overhanging a rather fast moving river with a young injured cygnet under one arm, trying to secure my footing between patches of slippery algae and thinking to myself, I’m pretty sure this is not what I signed up for.

Whilst this incident stands out to me, it’s not the only time volunteering has led me to experiences I never imagined I would have. I’ve hand-reared and fostered abandoned hoglets. I’ve looked after animals in intensive care, rooting for their survival. And I’ve taught young people excluded from mainstream education the skills to focus, learn and achieve through juggling, unicycling and tightrope walking.

So much of our lives are affected by the role volunteers play in society and so often this goes unnoticed. To understand the full impact, try switching it round – imagine a society where no one volunteered:

Wildlife and landscapes up and down the UK would suffer. Nature reserves and areas of natural beauty up and down the country would deteriorate through neglect. Conservation as we know it would become a pipe dream. Communities would suffer with no volunteers to help discharged patients coming home. Vulnerable people would be isolated and the justice system would cease to exist without magistrates, witness support and victim support.

When I first heard the phrase ‘Global citizen’ I couldn’t help but chuckle at the newest third sector slang. Global citizen? Surely we’re all citizens of the globe. But soon I realised it meant so much more.

Being a global citizen is to take an active role in a democratic society. It is standing up and being counted; it is helping to decide which path we, as a society, want to go down. The path of our generation is not already chosen and we have the freedom to choose what we want our communities, our countries and our world to look like. It is only when people step up and step forward that we can make change happen and each hour spent volunteering for a cause is not just a vote for change, but an opportunity to the shape the world we live in.

And what about the tangible affects of volunteering for you as an individual? The most common reason I’ve heard for volunteering is ‘it’s great for my CV’ and you know what? It really is. The ability of volunteering to evidence your commitment and real-life job skills cannot be underestimated but it doesn’t stop there. Using your time to change your world gives you opportunities you may never otherwise experience.

For me, the rewards have been priceless. I’ve seen hedgehogs that would otherwise have died being release back into the wild. I’ve been pecked by cheeky swans who previously couldn’t even lift their necks. And I’ve watched young people who had no self-confidence light up with pride and self-respect when they achieve something that they never thought they could. 

Through the Our Bright Future programme we’re currently advertising a whole variety of different opportunities across the UK for young people to step up and take what is rightfully theirs: a healthy planet, a thriving economy, and a brighter future.

There are even more opportunities available with The Wildlife Trusts ranging from gardening, species surveying such as looking for otters, caring for nature reserves, dry stone walling, hedge laying, habitat management and GPS mapping to running Wildlife Watch groups to connect young people with their local environment.

Money can’t buy these experiences, but they really are available to all. Do Something Great today and become a Global Citizen.

Laura Budden is the Communications Officer for Our Bright Future, a collection of 31 projects across the UK supporting and enabling young people to make genuine differences to their local environments.




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