To celebrate National Volunteer's Week 2021 we're looking at why we volunteer and the importance of volunteering for children and young people.
Humans are naturally socially interactive, and we all want to live in communities that thrive and support each other. For some people, it gives them the opportunity to give something back to a community or organisation that has supported them in their time of need. For others, it is the opportunity to improve the lives of people, or the environment, around them. One of the reasons given during the Covid-19 pandemic, is that people now have the time to help; they want to stand up and make a difference.
Alongside all of this, volunteering gives individuals the opportunities to gain and develop new skills, knowledge and experiences. This is particularly important when we look at young people today.
Young people care deeply about the world around them. They want to make a real and meaningful difference. The National Youth Social Action 2018 Survey showed that 82% of young people wanted to make the world a better place.
In today’s world, as we gradually see the Covid-19 pandemic coming to an end, it is of vital importance that our young people are encouraged to get involved in Social Action projects and volunteering within their communities. The life skills that young people will be introduced to will be invaluable to them in later life, particularly when ‘40% of employers do not think that young people are leaving education “work ready”’. (CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey report, 2019).
An independent review carried out in 2018 showed that ‘committed forms of social action over an extended period have been shown to play a critical role in developing a young person’s life chances, improving job prospects and well-being.’
Through volunteering, children and young people are given opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds, and the knowledge that they have had an impact for their local community will have a profound and lasting impact for the young person volunteering and who they have helped.
‘Youth Social Action builds character…it benefits the individual doing the social action and it benefits society, since that individual is part of society.’
Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues
Amelia, aged 17, has been volunteering in her local community for the past 4 years. She started as a volunteer at a local youth group and, since February 2021, she has also been volunteering at a local foodbank.
‘Volunteering as a young person educates you so much on other aspects of the world that you wouldn’t usually see because you are shielded by adults who don’t want you to see the bad things around you. Volunteering helps me mature and become independent. In education, you learn the basics, English, Maths, Science, etc, but in volunteering, you learn how to help people, how to interact with those around you, how to talk about sensitive subjects, and how to help improve your community. It’s honestly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Starting off with something small, although you may not realise the great impact it has, can make such a difference in the lives of the people you help. The joy you see on the children’s faces at a youth group or on adults faces at a foodbank who were so scared to come in and ask for help. You’re that friendly face that they see, you’re the person who is providing them with what they need, and they then know that they can rely on you. I just love volunteering. The rewarding experience of it is that you make people’s lives better which for me is just unbelievable.’
Our young people want to make a difference and they want to make the world a better place. The Archbishop of York Trust believes young people should be given the opportunities and skills to ‘Be the change they want to see’. The Young Leaders Award is a Leadership and Character education programme for schools focusing on social action and is available from KS1 through to KS4/post 16. Through taking part in the award, young people learn and develop leadership skills and character virtues for life in the workplace and are encouraged to identify local volunteering opportunities and social action projects they can get involved in. During the past 10 years, over 950 schools and 100,000 young people have taken part in the YLA, completing over 6.5 years of volunteering hours during 2018-19.
“The children really enjoyed helping their local community. This year was a bit different during COVID-19 but I think this made the pupils want to take part more and help others. They developed in self-confidence too.”
Find out more about the Young Leaders Award here.