This summer, I graduated with a degree in French Studies from The University of Birmingham, and it was also the time that I undertook my first voluntary work.
Oxfam run an amazing volunteer scheme every summer where they recruit stewards to work at UK festivals. What was so refreshing was to be able to apply for something without having to complete a seemingly endless application process, which is frequently the case nowadays. I decided to go for the big one: Glastonbury.
Your role as an Oxfam steward varies depending on the festival, but my main duties were scanning tickets and checking IDs, and directing people arriving at the festival. I was really lucky and had my shifts early on, so I still got to see all the music and basically had the same festival experience as every other Glastonbury-goer, except for the one big difference, which was that I was also helping an incredible charity! The work done by Oxfam festival stewards raises £1m for Oxfam each year, which goes to helping people living in poverty all over the world.
Inspired by my first experience, I am now a social media and marketing volunteer at the Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea. Being currently based in Basingstoke, I only travel to London one day a week, but I am really enjoying the role.
My main responsibility was to create Facebook and Twitter posts based around the theme of volunteering. I have learnt to use Canva, a graphic design tool, as well as Buffer, a scheduling tool for all the social media posts. I have also developed my understanding of attracting and capturing an audience as well as maximising a post’s output, based on current trends. Creating social media posts (particularly those that have to be under 140 characters!) can be challenging, which forces me to be creative. It’s always a proud moment when you’re scrolling through your social media feed and see one of your posts pop up.
Everyone who works at the Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea is lovely and so passionate about what they do, and I feel very lucky to have worked in such a positive environment. I hope that the skills I have learnt and the experience that I have gained will put me in a stronger position to embark on the 9-5 life that lies ahead!
If I’m honest, I’m almost ashamed that I hadn’t volunteered until the age of 22. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’ve made a difference to someone’s life, and had I known the benefits that it brings, I’d have taken advantage of the volunteering opportunities at my university. In addition, volunteering is also beneficial for you: the volunteer!
It’s a great way to learn new skills and experiences that will be invaluable when applying for a job. So basically, it’s never too late, and I would encourage every other student and adult of any age to take up volunteering because it’s a pretty special thing to do.
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