Find out the many benefits of volunteering, how you can do it and where to look for opportunities.
Benefits of volunteering
Meet people and give back
Volunteering lets you get involved in the local community and meet new people. You can give your time to those who need it whilst making new friends and connections in the city. You can volunteer for a cause you feel strongly about or find out about something new.
Build experience and skills
You don’t always need relevant experience to volunteer and it can be an excellent way to build practical skills and work on skills such as communication, teamwork and time management. It can also improve your confidence and self-esteem. Some areas of work will require that you have experience in order to apply for work or further study –some examples include international development, creative arts, teaching and social work – and volunteering is a good way to start.
Get insight into career areas and build your network
If you're considering several different career options, volunteering allows you to gain an insight into what they are like on a day-to-day basis, and what roles suit you. Meeting people within the organisation is a way to build your own personal network.
How can you volunteer?
There are lots of different ways to volunteer. You could be involved in the organisation side in roles such as fundraising, communications, marketing and administration – or you may prefer to be involved in practically supporting the individuals, or the cause, the organisation supports. This could range from cleaning a park to providing company over meals to an elderly person. In some instances there may also be opportunities to conduct research.
Time commitments can also vary to suit what you have available – some opportunities will require an ongoing commitment but others might be a one-off opportunity such as supporting a charity event.
Where to find opportunities
The Students’ Association Volunteering Service is the place to start your volunteering journey. It offers a huge variety of opportunities appropriate for students. If you have your own idea of a project that could make a difference to others in the local community, but are not how to organise it, the Service can support you to make it a reality.
Its website includes advice on volunteer rights and information specifically for international students .
Volunteering centres throughout the UK advise you on finding suitable opportunities.
There are matching agencies which put you in touch with short and long-term volunteering opportunities. Here is an example of one:
MyCareerHub includes international volunteering opportunities:
Edinburgh Global Partnerships - this student society organises sustainable development projects overseas.
VSO - Voluntary Service Overseas -works in Africa and Asia. Its International Citizen Service programme provides volunteer placements to 18-25 year olds and Team Leader placements to 23-35 year olds.
Do your research
Before signing up for anything it is important to research the organisation and what you will actually be doing once you are overseas. Here are some basic questions to ask:
The Responsible Volunteering website has impartial advice on selecting a volunteer placement, including suggested questions to ask volunteer abroad organisations.
Funding and fundraising
It’s usual to pay to take part in an overseas volunteering programme. This is to cover things like accommodation, food, travel within the country and insurance. It makes sense to 'shop around' and find out exactly where your money will be going before you commit.
You will probably be expected to do some fundraising. Voluntary organisations should be able to provide ideas of ways to do this. How you find the funds to be able to do your placement is part of the whole experience and you will gain a wide range of valuable skills from this exercise alone.