I have always believed that volunteering is a key element in the pursuit of happiness. I recently read a paper, published in October 2017, by Harvard Health that described volunteers as benefiting from something they call the “happiness effect.” They identified that ‘doing good’ is one of three pathways to happiness.
There must be something in that because Frances, a volunteer Panel Member, told me that: “working with young people is inspirational and fulfilling. You start off thinking that you’re going to give something to others but soon come to realise that it’s a two-way street. It’s probably the most enriching, satisfying thing that I’ve ever done.”
At Dorset Combined Youth Offending Service (YOS) we have a team of 36 volunteers who span the whole of the county. From retired school teachers to ex magistrates and university students to the self employed. All have joined us to help offer encouragement and support to our young people.
Our volunteers work with 10 to 17 year old’s on Referral Orders – a contract agreed between the young person and volunteer panel members to prevent reoffending. In 2017 our volunteers spent 677 hours supporting our service and young people.
People volunteer for a variety of reasons. Many of our university students volunteer for us as part of their course. Last year Charlotte, one of our students, entered and won Bournemouth University’s ‘Faculty of Science and Technology Prize’ for outstanding contribution on placement. The YOS being one of three volunteering roles she took on. We had another volunteer attend the ‘Queen’s Garden Party’ in May last year; I was glad to contribute to his nomination describing all the great work he does for our team.
The volunteering opportunities at the YOS are very unique. As an appropriate adult our volunteers work alone with young people in custody supporting them throughout the whole process. As panel members they help a young person write a contract that forms the basis of what they have to do for their Referral Order. I always love to hear it when our team members describe the shock our young people show when they realise volunteering means our team do it for free. This disbelief then turns to comprehension. By doing it for free means volunteers must really want to help, that they care.
Volunteering is not just about the role, it’s often about the social aspect. Meeting like minded people and making new friends. At the YOS we organise social nights that encourage our team to relax and share experiences of life, volunteering and current affairs. Over the years I have been privileged to get to know these inspirational people and also get to call them my friends.
Volunteering for the Council, charities or other organisations can be incredibly beneficial. Not just by increasing skills, knowledge and confidence but happiness, friendships and self worth.
What’s stopping you? Find out more about volunteering opportunities now.