Wednesday, June 30, 2004

# Volunteering in UK

The best thing in UK is we always get endless opportunities to participate in a great variety of volunteer programs and events! I noticed that the volunteer organizations network is well-established in this country, good management systems are observed in many organizations and there is good awareness among citizens about social work/ volunteer work. Deep in my heart, I decided to learn as much as I could during my stay in UK, about the work culture, the systems, the network and the activities of the voluntary program in UK. This will prove to be valuable skills to transfer to our own country when I go back to embark on these activities.

I remembered one of the first few volunteer program I participated in was a one-off environmental events organized by CSV Go London, which focused mainly on weekends volunteer activities. We went to Greenwich Ecology Park to help out in willow coppicing and cleaning up the area of the marsh land in the ecology park. Basic skills learnt included maintaining the growth of willow trees, basic woodland management skills, fence-building using willow branches and handicraft-making using the willow stems. It was fulfilling to appreciate our efforts after one whole afternoon’s hard work, eating and chatting to one another. People from different backgrounds come together to volunteer and we learnt from one another about knowledge in different fields.

Another fond memory would be my volunteering experience as a Homework Coach Tutor in a community centre in London. I went to the centre to help out coaching children from age 7 to 16 in their homework after school. I used to think coaching should not pose too much problem but I was surprised to find out how challenging it was to keep 10 children under control, to get a child’s attention and respect, and just to teach Chemistry to a Secondary school student. The experience was fun as I have the chance to learn to communicate with teenagers (a crucial skill really needed by all adults nowadays, hehe) and to lead them to the right attitude to learning.

There were much more varieties of volunteering work that I found much values in – such as food preparation for sick people, food distribution to homeless people, fund raising in the street, etc. In university, being a student mentor and student ambassador is also fun task to help new students to get to know the campus. From the volunteer centre in our school, I saw a myriad of choices of volunteering activities ranging from hospital pianist to football coach to data input worker. Every project offers new skills to learn and new experience to enjoy. Every project offers help to the society and makes certain people’s life better. The most exciting thing is, every project is open to people who has a heart to care, and a willingness to take up training and volunteer.

One of the positive points I observed in the volunteering culture here is the provision of necessary training for certain volunteer work. Examples include legal issues training, training for handling special people and handling children, basic first aid course, etc. Even being just a basic volunteer require a preliminary briefing about the responsibilities and rights of a volunteer, so that we understand what we do and how we deal with certain issues such as identifying ourselves to the public and claiming travel expenses. I seriously think such basic training for volunteers should be seen as a must in my country too.

UK offers me lots of opportunities to learn, not only in terms of academic but also in terms of social work. I shall make every moment count and take the initiatives to learn while I can during my study here. Whether I will be able to bring back valuable knowledge and skills back to my country depends on my own initiatives, perseverance and willingness to learn.

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