International Volunteering Day – read our Guest Blog about her positive experience of volunteering

This week, to celebrate International Volunteer Day on 5th December, we have a guest blog from Punam Owens, who talks about what drew her to volunteer, the positive impact it has on her life and the reward of seeing the impact in her community.

In partnership with organisations and groups across the County we will be celebrating volunteers in the run up to Saturday. Join in by adding #OxonTogetherWeCan

Together we can…

“When we work together on a common goal, we can achieve things beyond our greatest imagination… Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”     Helen Keller – American author, political activist and lecturer

Punam Owens, Volunteer
Punam Owens, Volunteer

Time seems to be something we have less of today as our world advances. Be that technology, growing families to changing dynamics at work or at home, all making demands on our time. So why volunteer?

For me it offers the chance to give something back to the community and to make a difference to people’s lives. I saw in a gap in my community, an opportunity to improve health and well-being of others. And I chose to volunteer to help close that gap.

Other people find it gives them an opportunity to develop new skills or build on their existing experience and knowledge. Regardless of the motivation, what unites us all is that volunteering is both about giving and receiving.

I currently volunteer with my local community fridge, and we are seeing so much need right now, which makes what I am doing so worthwhile. I am also an active volunteer with parkrun, and again, everything this year has taught me how important being outside and active is.

Everyone has different motivations, for me, there is something about that feel good factor of connecting with others in your community. Seeing the real time difference your efforts can make to others is fulfilling, from helping to feed a family, to seeing someone get active, it all adds up.

My day job, as for many people, gives me limited opportunities to spend time socially, nurturing new relationships or meeting people with common interests. I love my job and find it very rewarding in itself, but it’s healthy to find a balance and make sure life is not just all work, work, work.

Volunteering does that for me. It creates a space to use my skills and experience in a different way. Where there is a common purpose, irrespective of anyone’s background, job title, gender. It’s truly diverse and inclusive and I love that about it.

It’s also be a fabulous tonic to counteract the effects of stress and anxiety that a single work purpose can bring. I find the social aspect of helping and working with others in a volunteer capacity has a profound effect on my overall mental well-being. It also provides me with a sense of accountability and routine outside of my job. I keep in regular contact with other volunteers and get to see progress and the impact of our collective efforts. That in itself is heart-warming.

Ultimately, volunteering makes me happy. I often call them “magic moments”. From seeing someone achieve a goal from my support and encouragement, to creating a space to just listen, or learning something new about someone. It creates an opportunity for human connection, to inspire change and build trust. I have learnt a lot about myself and about other people, and this has helped me in other aspects of my life – personally and professionally.

As with anything, there can be challenges. We are all human after all. Overdo it and it can become a less positive experience. It’s important to know when to say no and to stick to volunteering activities which match your motivation, your skills and the areas where you want to learn. Don’t lose sight of why you volunteered in the first place…the common goal.

Volunteering should be fun, after all, it’s a gift of your time.

Volunteering in the middle of a pandemic, as with everything, that is hard. Some have experienced illness or bereavement or become carers. Other have found themselves having to home school. But some people have found that the world being forced to slow down has, in fact, created the space and opportunity to volunteer. That was the case for me. In “normal” times, I cannot always commit as much time as I want to.

“Together We Can”. Well, that’s just the point. Each and every contribution, no matter large or small is what drives change for the better. I would encourage anyone, to find your common purpose and motivation and give it a try. It could be the life balance you have been seeking – and a world of opportunity beckons!

Together we can

International Volunteer Day 2020