Why Everyone Should Consider Being a Volunteer

Why Everyone Should Consider Being a Volunteer

In our busy lives where time is precious, the altruistic act of volunteering stands as a beacon of selfless communal support. For this guest feature, Steve Vear MBE JP, a member of Toastmasters International, explains why everyone should Consider Being a Volunteer and the positive benefits it brings to one’s life.

For the millions of people who receive the work of volunteers, whether they are treated at first aid posts by St John Ambulance volunteers, rescued from the seas by the dedicated souls of the RNLI, protected by Special Constables patrolling our streets, or receiving items thanks to fund-raisers around the country, the benefits these selfless people bring to the lives of others are clear.

Steve wearing a tuxedo
Steve Vear MBE JP.

But what motivates the volunteers themselves? What makes them dedicate their time and energy to such endeavours, and what rewards await those who heed the call to serve?

The Beginning with the Personal
For many, including myself, the journey into volunteering is intertwined with personal stories of resilience and determination. Having been born with cerebral palsy and hearing from my parents that doctors at the time believed that I wouldn’t be able to get a ‘normal’ job, go to a ‘normal’ school or indeed have a ‘normal’ life, I think there was an innate desire deep inside me, from a very early age, to buck the trend that life had seemingly already set for me.

I was determined always to fight to exceed the limited expectations others had set for me. I did not anticipate that I would embark on a path of service that would shape not only my own destiny but also the lives of countless others.

Opportunities in Sport
My volunteering journey began while I was in secondary school, for example, with the encouragement of a PE teacher. I spent every Saturday in the summer and every school holiday with a scorebook and coloured pens, feeling included and valued in a world that I had never imagined possible.

Fast-forward thirty years, and I am still scoring cricket matches on Saturdays. I have also just celebrated twenty years of service, including six years as Chair, with the Southern Premier Cricket League, one of the over thirty England and Wales Cricket Board Premier Leagues in the country.

Expanding Volunteering
Having expressed my regret that I was never going to realise my childhood dream of becoming a police officer, a friend from cricket suggested I apply to join the bench as a Magistrate, a voluntary role I have been fulfilling since 2010.

I am not sure whether it is that ongoing desire to push the boundaries of expectation or because I have developed an inability to say ‘no’, but during my time as a magistrate, I have also spent three years as Chairman of the local bench and as Secretary of my local branch of the Magistrates Association.

The Impact on Employment
I faced a dilemma while I was looking for a new job back in 2017: Should my CV proudly state my huge amount of volunteering and ‘extracurricular’ activity? Or should I tone it down for fear of making any future employer think I don’t have time for a job? It didn’t take me long to decide that my volunteering experience together with my professional commercial experience makes me who I am.

It is important to bring our whole selves into everything we do, so I didn’t understate my volunteering experience. This proved a good decision as the recruiter called me and said, “I want to ask you some questions about your commercial experience, but I have to be honest, we want to meet you as your other experiences really speak to our core values as an organisation.”

The Benefits of Volunteering
The benefits of volunteering for me are obvious: it has given me my life as I enjoy it today and has, without question, made me a better person. We often volunteer not for any direct benefit to ourselves but to be of service to others.

A magistrate putting down the gavel

As a magistrate, I serve the crown; as a Samaritan, I serve my community; and as Program Quality Director at Toastmasters International, I serve our 4,000 members in Southern Britain to help them become better public speakers and more effective leaders. When we introspect honestly with ourselves, the benefits we gain from volunteering are extensive.

We gain confidence and learn skills that we don’t need to apply in earnest as we would in a job, which makes it a safer space in which to improve. Other than the motivation to want to do well for others, trying a new skill or taking on a senior position is separate from the occupational risk that exists when linked to our salary or pension.

The sheer variety of things we can do as volunteers is unlikely to be matched by any career, even if it were one in which we have made many lateral moves to broaden our horizons.

In May 2019, I found myself shaking the hands of the then Prince of Wales as he invested me as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (MBE) for voluntary service in Hampshire.

What started in a school library pushing a trolley full of books and then scoring a cricket match for the first time in the middle of a field eventually led me inside Buckingham Palace to be presented to our future King. That doctor was right: I wasn’t in for a ‘normal’ life. It was to be an extraordinary one but unlikely the one he had envisaged.

As we navigate the complexities of modern life, let us not overlook the transformative power of volunteering. It is a force capable of transcending barriers, fostering personal growth, and enabling societal progress.

In the act of giving, we invariably receive, enriching our lives and those around us in profound and enduring ways. The next time opportunity knocks at your door, inviting you to lend a hand or an ear, remember that the most significant rewards often lie in the act of service itself.

About the Author
Steve Vear MBE JP is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. More than 400 clubs and 10,000 members are in the UK and Ireland.

Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org.

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