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Mandy Kloppers

Is volunteering for you? Here’s why it could be

Steve Vear

There are many people who give their time as volunteer and millions who benefit from their selfless work.  You may yourself have benefit from the dedication of a volunteer.

 

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?

 

But what motivates people to volunteer? Often it begins with a personal story, and involves determination and resilience.

 

The starting point 

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.

 

My volunteering journey began while I was at secondary school. I discovered that the school library provided a safe haven for me in which I could avoid endless fights with bullies. Whilst I now appreciate this was the very start of my volunteering, it wasn’t until a new PE teacher entered the picture, that volunteering began to shape my life for the long term.

 

Tired of being unable to draft a meaningful report for my engagement in Physical Education, my teacher decided to teach me how to score a cricket match for our school team. Then my drama teacher asked me to join my local cricket club as the 2nd XI scorer. The result?  I spent every summer Saturday and every school holiday with a score book and coloured pens. I felt valued and included in a world that I had never imagined possible.

 

Thirty years later I still score cricket matches on a Saturday and have recently 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.

 

Involvement with cricket gave impetus to my ‘career’ as a volunteer.  Almost 20 years ago, I became a ‘listening’ volunteer at a local Samaritans branch, where I still take calls today. I have gained ‘professional’ training and listening skills which have made me a better leader in the workplace.

 

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 that I have been fulfilling since 2010.

 

Whether it is that ongoing desire to push the boundaries of expectation, or because I have developed an inability to say ‘no’, I am not sure, 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.

 

I became involved with the University of Winchester cricket team almost twenty years ago through running a local indoor cricket league. It involved scoring duties, fixture management and being a friend to many a lost fresher as they navigate the new chapter of their lives in further education. I also served for eight years on the Trustee Board of the Student Union. At the end of this service, with my ‘Honorary lifetime membership’ under my arm, I went looking for another charity to support so that I could keep my Board skills fresh, alongside my work as a school governor for a special needs school. I was immensely proud when invited to join the Board of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance as a Trustee and non-executive director.

 

From cricket to a lifesaving organisation is quite a journey; volunteering has not only shaped my ambitions and accomplishments, but it has also forged my character and identity.

 

Why volunteer?

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. 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 learn skills and gain confidence in a safe 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. The variety of things we can do as a volunteer is unlikely to be matched by any work role.

 

When we lead volunteers there might be a carrot, but there’s no stick, so motivating and leading teams of volunteers requires a distinct and special leadership style. In my volunteering life I have developed the communication skills to stand behind a podium and speak, to stand on a stage and deliver keynote speeches, to manage board discussions and even sit behind a microphone at my local community radio station.

 

And in 2019, I met 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 an extraordinary journey!

 

Of course, volunteering does not happen in isolation. For someone who once didn’t have any friends I can now and thank volunteering for the wonderful and rich friendships that help me get through my life and I know will be there for me as each new challenge emerges.

 

Volunteering is a force capable of transcending barriers, fostering personal growth, and enabling societal progress. In the act of giving, we invariably receive, which enriches our lives and the lives of those around us in profound and enduring ways. Please seek out volunteering opportunities or grab them when they arise. You and all those whose lives you touch will be glad you took action.

By Steve Vear MBE JP, Toastmasters International

 

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. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members 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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