Following on from Volunteers Week 2021, it seemed only right to ask experienced volunteer, Akua Opong, to write this month’s guest blog. She shares with us the joy that she gets from her volunteering activities and the ways in which they benefit the organisations, herself and her employer. Read on and be inspired….
The Covid-19 global pandemic has changed life as we know it for the last year. Like so many others, it has brought me unique and new challenges both personally and professionally. It has also given me a chance to reflect, show gratitude and be thankful to so many people – from family & friends to colleagues, medical staff and the wonderful volunteers I have had the opportunity to work with.
The community spirit shown by volunteers globally, has highlighted that, in turbulent times, random acts of kindness are more important than ever.
What is volunteering?
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
To volunteer is to give of yourself in service to a cause. It is about freely giving your time to help an organisation, your community or an individual, or even simply to act on behalf of something or someone else.
Why am I inspired to give back?
Ever since I was a teenager, I started taking part in fundraising activities and raising money for charity. My very first charity walk was for Save the Children. I continued being involved in various charity events, including charity walks, runs and an abseil, for various charities such as Cancer Research UK to Crohn’s and Colitis UK.
In 2007 I participated in the Great South Run to raise money for children with leukaemia. I remember running near this elderly lady who was by herself. I slowed down to run with her and keep her company. It was great to listen to her amazing stories. This touched my heart and opened my eyes to why it is important to give back.
As I got older and participated in more charity events, I felt that I could do more to help. I started helping out at the Cancer Research UK events such as Race for Life and Shine night walks to set up the events as a marshal or in the volunteer event team.
Fast forward to my current role as a Senior Analyst, London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG). I am part of the UK Wellbeing Committee (Mental Health Champion), Women’s Network (Community Lead) and UK Charity Committee as a volunteering champion. I am also involved in various voluntary programmes to teach children business skills.
Outside work I have been doing sports and charity volunteering for the last five years. My goal is to do a full cycle of major events and I am hoping to work at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022.
Skills gained from volunteering
Volunteering is so diverse and inclusive – anyone can become a volunteer. It can be very rewarding and is a great way to learn new skills.
- Meet new people and expand your network
- Develop teamwork
- Leadership and independent working
- Explore new experiences
There are various ways to get involved– from visiting an elderly neighbour to have a cup of tea, to helping out in your local area or making a regular commitment to volunteer with a charity or community group that links with your hobbies and interests.
Volunteering with your workplace helps employees to become connected by sharing similar passions. I believe organisations should allow time for their employees to participate in volunteering initiatives, helping staff develop business skills such as:
It also gives a deeper sense of purpose. As a team you can help create positive social change within your workplace and the wider community.
An act of kindness
What drives me to be a volunteer is that a society can only work well when everyone contributes something to it. I am motivated by making a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small. I want to inspire others to be an empowered voice for change, show honesty, integrity and be authentically themselves.
Volunteering has had such a positive impact on me as an individual. It has helped me to align my values with my passions. I have always been an introvert but meeting new people and being part of a community has helped me to step out of my comfort zone and form long term friendships.
The sense of belonging, purpose and shared values has contributed to my own wellbeing where I feel happier when I volunteer by seeing the impact it makes to others. It has given me confidence, boosted my self-esteem, better motivation to reflect on my purpose. It also helps me within the workplace, not only the interpersonal skills, but planning for a project, problem solving and organisation.
I now know how I can make a difference in any organisation and from learning these skills, I can adapt and apply them in any situation. This has led me to becoming a mentor to others were I can share my passions and skills to help others in their journey and understanding of social responsibility.
We can all experience the joy of helping others by finding a volunteering opportunity that inspires us. Take a look at the additional resources below to start your own volunteering journey.
Akua Opong works as a Senior Analyst within the Corporate Technology team at London Stock Exchange Group. She currently holds active membership in following networks: BEING, Ability (Resource Lead), WIN (Community Lead), Wellbeing (Mental Health Champion) and UK Charity Committee (Volunteering champion). Outside her work environment, Akua is a Team London ambassador, charity volunteer and a keen sports volunteer for Netball England and British Athletics. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram
There are several organisations that can help you find a way to volunteer that suits you:
- Do-it.org is a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.
- You can also contact Volunteering England, Volunteer Scotland, Volunteering Wales, Jersey Charities, Guernsey Charities or Volunteering Matters to find opportunities in your area.