I’m not too sure what others think, but before I started volunteering with Dyslexia Scotland I didn’t really think of it as something young people did other than if they happened to have spare time, or needed it for CV purposes. Sure, it looks good on the CV, but it offers so much more than that.
I really think it’s the best way to learn and grow, and not primarily because you are helping other people, although that’s always a good thing. In my experience, it’s not so much about what you learn (although that’s obviously important too) but the way in which you are able to do it. Because it’s on a voluntary basis, nobody expects you to know everything there is to know about what it is you’re doing (in my case, organising and helping to re-launch Dyslexia Scotland’s Resource Centre – watch this space for more details about that).
To me, the confidence you are given by knowing you are helping others while developing your skills and consequently growing as a person is second to none. Given the state of the UK job market today, it has never been more important to be self-assured.
In a world where exam systems are measured by grades and outcomes and workplaces are driven by targets and timescales, its refreshing to have an avenue where young people can learn the value of saying “You know what? I might have difficulty with X or have never done Y, but that’s OK, and I’m a better person having attempted it.” Because realising you are never going to get everything right all the time and making mistakes is OK is, in my opinion, part of being truly confident. In fact, I would say that its life’s most important lesson. Nothing teaches it better than volunteering.
Maybe it’s because even just by talking to other people, you realise that nobody is perfect (yes, even in that seemingly flawless work environment). Perhaps it’s the fact that, even when you’re learning new skills and might be a bit of a novice or a little apprehensive, you’re still doing great things.
That’s the unique thing that volunteering teaches younger people. Because, as much as some people wouldn’t like to admit it, we don’t have as much life experience compared to the older generations. Not only is volunteering a brilliant way to gain that experience and the confidence that comes with it, but you’re a saner person for having done it that way. At least, I’d like to think so.