Impact Story: The Value of Skilled Volunteering and why Amanda keeps coming back for more
I was lucky to recently chat with Amanda to discuss her Link UP Skilled Volunteer experiences, what she’s learned and what keeps her coming back for more. Amanda is an enthusiastic and energetic education professional who had worked in the education sector for many years, her experience spanning from working in community education right through to higher education.
A few years ago, she was looking for a fresh challenge where she might use her skills and experience in a more creative and less formal way and was drawn to the voluntary sector; it was through her research that she discovered Link UP London and decided to look into skilled volunteering.
Soon after meeting her, Link UP was able to put Amanda in touch with a small start-up organisation that was in need of her expertise. It transpired that it was just what she was looking for as it set her on a journey that enabled her to gain the new knowledge and skills that she had been seeking to make the leap into paid employment in the voluntary sector, and the rest is history.
Since that first project Amanda has become a “serial skilled volunteer”. The last of the 4 Link UP projects she has been involved in ended this year! For all of them she used her extensive background in education and curriculum development to help them move forward. I was keen to find out what keeps Amanda’s passion alight.
What keeps bringing her back to skilled volunteering?
Amanda says that she likes to feel “useful” and the variety of opportunities that have been offered by Link UP London have been “appropriate” and “right for her”, this keeps her enthusiastic about sharing her expertise, passion for teaching, learning and skills with others.
Had she discovered anything about herself and her community through her Skilled Volunteering projects?
Amanda discovered that she likes to be creative and feeling useful so volunteering her skills helps her to fulfil these needs whilst helping others.
She has particularly “loved” skilled volunteering in her local area as it has enabled her to get to know the area better; businesses, the people, her neighbours and she genuinely feels “more connected” to her neighbourhood. Through this new sense of community she has been invited to events and cultural occasions that she never knew about before.
She has also learnt that her passion, commitment and conscientiousness is an asset but that she needs to hone it, draw and review boundaries. This however does not mean that she will not continue to volunteer, just that she will adopt a more refined approach to choosing the projects she becomes involved with.
Did she stay in touch with any of the organisations she had volunteered with?
Amanda is a trustee for one organisation and she always leaves it open for the organisations she supports to get in touch with her again if they need any further advice.
What had she learnt from her experiences as a skilled volunteer?
Amanda said that her skilled volunteering experiences have given her insight into a sector that she knew very little about and it opened up other paid voluntary opportunities to her as she moved away from the formal education sector. She now works in paid employment in the voluntary sector, she no longer feels like a cog in a wheel, she feels more valued and that her expertise can be shared with others from grassroots to governance level. This can all be attributed to Link UP London and the opportunities that skilled volunteering have given her.
What would she tell someone who is interested in becoming a Skilled volunteer?
“Absolutely do it! Do it!”, she says.
She advises potential volunteers to think carefully about the areas they are interested in and the skills that they have to offer. She would also like to see younger people getting to develop their CV’s through skilled volunteering.
Five years after her first project Amanda continues to be a passionate advocate for skilled volunteering saying that she would be happy to mentor others who are interested in working on projects. I’m sure that this is an offer that Link UP London will be more than happy to take her up on!
By Skilled Volunteer, Diane Carrington
Diane lives in London with many years’ experience from various roles in education. She is now establishing a career as a freelance writer. She is also an author of children’s books and seeking her first publishing agent.