Often, people are quick to dismiss volunteering because it doesn’t pay. Here’s my experience of it, and why it’s one of the best decisions I made.
I first started volunteering when I was fourteen. Our town had a small youth club desperate for young people to help out. Having attended that youth club when transitioning to secondary school, I saw volunteering as a great way to give back and stay involved.
I loved it.
Yes, it was unpaid and a commitment of my time, but it didn’t feel that way because I enjoyed it. I organised activities for the members (which I could get involved in too) and could offer advice from my experiences in secondary school. Although I could only keep it up until my GCSEs became heavy, I’ve always been glad that I did it. It was a couple of hours of my week when I only would have been sitting at home anyway.
I didn’t know it then, but I’d caught the volunteering bug.
Coming back to it
Skip ahead a few years and I’d just moved to university. I had been incredibly busy with education and work and I hadn’t had time to volunteer again. That’s when my best friend told me about volunteering for the Wales Millennium Centre. As a former theatre kid without a lot of talent, I was elated by the chance to keep involved with one of my passions. Plus, Cardiff Bay is one of my favourite places, it really seemed like a win-win situation.
Their volunteer scheme is really approachable. There are a few different roles you can do, but I was most tempted by ushering – helping out at the shows so that the patrons had a good experience and the show ran smoothly. It’s quite a big responsibility. Their largest theatre, the Donald Gordon, seats almost 2000 people. So, between all the ushers on that show, we have to make sure they’re all sat in the right place before the performance starts and that everything is as it should be once it begins.
I’ve learnt how to evacuate the building, including how to use an evacuation chair, and it’s really boosted my people skills. You don’t have to work a certain amount of shows. It’s completely up to you how much time you commit. However, with something like this, you can never get enough.
Seeing 2000 people delighted by Beauty and the Beast or singing Bohemian Rhapsody is incredibly heartwarming. And it’s made all the better by the other volunteers: people of all ages, but like-minded lovers of theatre.
To me, volunteering is a great way to spend your free time. If it’s something you’re passionate about, the rewards are always worth more than the money. To potential employers, it shows commitment and passion, and it’s a fab conversation starter. I encourage anyone to give it a go. Rediscover a passion and give back to your community at the same time.