Volunteering opens up a world of opportunities

Volunteering opens up a world of opportunities

Volunteering is the act of giving up your time for free to help another person, organisation, group or cause.

Key points

  • There are many benefits to volunteering and many different ways to donate your time
  • Practical reasons to volunteer can include getting work experience and to meet obligations for welfare payments
  • Other important reasons include to build social skills, improve wellbeing and connect with the community

There are many benefits to volunteering, including meeting new people, learning new skills and building confidence, and there a lots of different ways in which to give your time.

This article outlines why volunteering and community service is such a good idea for people with disability in particular, and the reasons why people volunteer, and may encourage you to find a volunteering position you enjoy.

Work experience

If you are looking for a job in a particular area, volunteering in a similar role can give you the experience to stand out from other job candidates and show potential employers that it would be valuable to employ you in that role. It can also give you the chance to learn new skills which are specific to the workplace that you want to find a job in.

For example, if you wanted a retail job in a clothing store you could gain experience volunteering in an op shop.

If you wanted to go into an apprenticeship as a chef you could volunteer for a local service that provides meals to people who are homeless, or you might be able to volunteer in a Meals on Wheels kitchen, to get a little bit of experience and build your resume.

Social skills

Most volunteering roles involve working with other people in some way.

This might be working in a team, for example a team of people working on replanting a patch of land and removing the weeds for an environmental project, or you might be working in a pair to deliver donations collected by the St Vincent de Paul Society for people in need.

In some roles you might even be volunteering for an individual person, for example you might drive someone who can’t drive themselves to their daily activities or work with a team of volunteers to clear the property of a person affected by a natural disaster like a flood.

In these situations you can develop very close bonds with an individual that you had never met before you started volunteering, or you could build a professional working relationship with them that uses a different set of social skills that are found in the workplace.

Working with others gives you an opportunity to practise and build your social skills, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet new people, make friends and expand your network.

Wellbeing

Volunteering has been linked to increased health and wellbeing and improved self-esteem, while also reducing stress, loneliness and depression.

Getting out in the community and interacting with other people is an important part of wellbeing as we all benefit from positive interactions with other humans.

In some cases people who volunteer alongside you can also provide informal emotional support that helps you to build your confidence, build your skills in a comfortable environment and give you a chance to talk through anything you are feeling.

Making a positive difference in your community through volunteering or achieving your goals by learning new skills in a volunteering role can also give you a sense of accomplishment that will add to your wellbeing.

Meeting obligations

For a range of Government payments which you may need to support you, volunteering may count towards your mutual obligations.

You may be able to volunteer to show you are working towards developing workplace skills, in addition to applying for jobs or instead of applying for jobs.

However, you can only volunteer with an organisation that is registered with Centrelink for it to meet your obligations and this has to be agreed on as part of your Job Plan.

More information about volunteering to meet obligations for payments can be found on the Services Australia website.

To find volunteering opportunities in your community, head to Volunteering Australia's website.

Do you have a volunteering role? Tell us about what you do in the comments below.

Related content:
Employment and volunteering options
Job hunting tips: Finding work when living with a disability
Options for transitioning out of school and into work

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