Each year, more than one billion people volunteer. Joining them might just be the best thing you ever do. Here’s why.
1. Your skills and efforts will be truly appreciated
Ever feel that the work you put in is underappreciated? Volunteering means sharing your skills and investing efforts where they are needed – and appreciated – most.
Nursing volunteer Carol Carson, from Perthshire, Scotland, says, "I volunteer because I really want to do it. The best moments as a volunteer have been when staff come up and say they appreciate you."
I am fulfilled when people say thank you. These are the moments that make me very proud as a volunteer. It makes me feel grateful that I can empower people to become self-reliant. I always remember when someone I’d been supporting came up to me and said, 'Now, because of you, I know how to speak. I can voice my opinions now'.Education volunteer from the Philippines
2. You will be challenged – and emerge resilient
The confidence I have gained from this experience is something that will definitely help me be much bolder in future career decisions.Greg GungollVolunteer business adviser, Bangladesh
Feel like it's time for a new challenge? Volunteering is not for everyone, but those that are ready to give it their all could emerge more resilient.
In research carried out by VSO, half of volunteers agreed the experience was ‘challenging’
Just as a diamond is only formed under pressure, the challenges you will face as a volunteer could make you stronger. In the VSO study, 82% went on to say that the experience helped to build their resilience, with a further 84% emerging with a confidence boost.
3. You’ll feel like your time is truly well spent
Your time is your most valuable asset. Are you making the most of it?
Many of us are afraid to admit the amount of time we waste mindlessly, whether scrolling through social media or binge-watching box sets.
Volunteers, meanwhile, know that their time is well spent. What’s more, studies suggest that volunteering has the effect of making you feel like you have more free time.
"I chose to volunteer with VSO because I saw it as an opportunity to use my experience and knowledge to give something back," said Helen Horton, 66, a volunteer teacher trainer from the UK.
Ana Paula Pinto, an education volunteer from Portugal, agrees: "VSO gave me an opportunity to share my skills, to learn and to grow as a person. It's rewarding to be able to share my teaching experience, but it’s also rewarding to receive knowledge."
4. You will learn something unexpected
Returned volunteers from the UK share some of the unexpected things they learned from their VSO experience, from the practical, to the bizarre, to the profound.
An open mind, willingness to listen and learn and a sense of humility are a recipe for success in volunteering.
You may also discover you have more in common with people from other cultures than you might think, and change your perspective on the world.
"Through volunteering I became a global citizen rather than a UK citizen, and I felt I was now part of the world. It opened my eyes to a world I found deeply attractive," said Nick Maurice, former VSO volunteer and advocate for international partnerships.
You never know what you might discover when you volunteer.
"Before volunteering, I couldn't change a lightbulb!" says Alison May, who supported young people to benefit from better employment prospects in Uganda.
Another volunteer, 63-year-old Jane Stageman, reflects: "I realised I could deal with a lot of unexpected situations in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible before."
5. You will do something truly meaningful
Many people look back on their volunteering experience as the best decision they ever made.
Melba Pyne, 56, is an Colombian education volunteer. She said, "I consider volunteering the greatest professional development opportunity anyone can have."
She continued, "What you learn as a volunteer you can't learn anywhere elsewhere. This experience boosts you as a person and a professional and it refreshes your life."
What are you waiting for? Get started!
From volunteering with a local food bank, to giving time to help a nearby shelter, there are so many ways to give something back without going far.
In the UK, volunteering website do-it.org also connects volunteers with remote and in-person opportunities.
Explore volunteering with VSO
You can make a real impact by using your skills and experience to create lasting change in countries across Africa and Asia.
VSO e-volunteer Chris Evans outlines how a tiny pilot permaculture scheme in Nepal successfully spreads environmentally friendly practices and ideas in line with existing cultural traditions.
For Vivian, the Covid-19 pandemic was a frightening time. Affording three meals a day for herself and her children was hard with no income. Thanks to VSO supporters Vivian was provided a lifeline, with a new small business grant.
In 2021 a devastating fire broke out in Susan’s Bay slum in Freetown, Sierra Leone, leaving 7,000 people homeless. Read how volunteer Samuel jumped in to action.