Fiona Inglis has been a Development Officer with Impact Funding Partners since 2018 and is one of the lead Development Officers working on the Volunteering Support Fund. She strongly believes in promoting the positive aspects of working in partnership and the huge benefits volunteering can have. Here, she talks about her experiences and what volunteering means to her.
I’ve been in various job roles over the last eight years now and have learned that ‘to volunteer’ can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. This is perfectly OK.
People volunteer for a lot of different reasons. Some do it to find friendship, or to get to know their community. Some people volunteer to give back, to feel valued and have a purpose. Others do it to learn and develop new skills, or to help them get a job.
The list goes on and the reasons I have just given only just touch the surface of the reasons people volunteer, and are not the same for everyone. For example, volunteering isn’t something everyone does as a way to gain employment and the end goal doesn’t have to be entering into employment or into a ‘positive destination’. Volunteering IS a positive destination and should be celebrated and recognised accordingly.
For me personally, I could choose at least four of those reasons as to why I first started volunteering. I volunteered initially when I was at School, in 6th Form and also at University. Back then I think I was volunteering to learn new skills, develop and work out what I wanted to do. Later on, I found myself volunteering again for a whole new reason.
I moved up to Scotland in 2010. I didn’t know the area I was living in and I didn’t have any friends. Volunteering soon changed that. I met new people (some of whom are now very dear friends) through my volunteering with GirlGuiding and by volunteering with an organisation working with care experienced young people, I learnt skills which would help me in future employment goals. I firmly believe that both of these roles then helped me carve out my career journey for the next decade…’decade’, that sounds crazy! What a quick ten years!
I’ve continued to volunteer with GirlGuiding and I enjoy being in my ‘Snowy Owl’ role every Monday night. Some of the experiences we have enabled the girls to take part in have been incredible. We are a supportive team of volunteers, all of whom come from different backgrounds with different hopes and goals but through supporting each other, listening to ideas and ensuring we are including everyone, we always come up with an engaging, fun and interactive set of plans to deliver every term!
I am quite a reflective person, and recently I was thinking back on the key changes volunteering has brought in my life.
In my role now as a Development Officer at Impact Funding Partners, I have had the opportunity to learn how volunteering has impacted the lives of approximately 15,000 volunteers living all across Scotland! I know from being a Volunteer Manager in a previous role that everyone volunteers for different reasons, as I have already highlighted, but I think it’s also important to be aware that everyone is at different stages and levels of ‘readiness’ to progress into volunteering.
Over the last two months, I have been reading End of Fund reports from organisations funded through the Volunteering Support Fund. These reports give an incredible insight into the everyday lives of people across Scotland, the barriers and challenges, and the true changes that come about in people’s lives as a direct result of volunteering.
I have read of people becoming volunteers and then mentoring new recruits, being interviewed on TV, reducing dependency on drugs and alcohol and even meeting their future wife or husband!
In a report I recently read, one volunteer commented that: “Without this project I would have really had serious mental health issues, as I have had major depression, difficulties in my life, as a non-paid carer of multiple family members, going through grief, among other major life challenges. Without this project and these wonderful people I would be totally isolated and I don’t even want to think of the consequences”
This, to me, epitomises the positive destination volunteering can lead you to. Transforming your life, no matter how big or small, is a transformation nonetheless, and my inbox has been littered with so many incredible stories of people’s lives changing for the better.
The narrative around volunteering needs to change. No longer is it something people do to populate their CV or to help them climb the job ladder. It’s much more powerful than that. It has the power to save lives, it has the power to change communities, and it has the ability to help those who are isolated feel more part of their community.
Volunteering has the power to make this world a better place to be, and by getting involved together we can make it a better place for everyone.