Blog by Skilled Volunteer Anca Stef | May 2022
"Volunteering is the essence of collaborating to make the world a better place - do it! Why would you not? "
And interview with Skilled Volunteer Harriet Dodd
Link UP brings together great people looking for meaningful volunteering while using their skills and time to empower organisations and help them reach their goals. In an interview, executive coach Harriet Dodd (www.TopHatCoaching.co.uk) talked about her Link UP volunteering experience and how volunteering is meaningful at a personal and professional level. Harriet decided to step down from duties as an organisation leader in overseas development and became an executive coach for individuals and teams. She works with leaders of non-profit and social enterprise organisations as a certified coach and team coach.
Harriet remembers that the first time she was a volunteer was when she was around 16 with a group from her school for sessions of visiting and singing for the elderly. “It stands out in my memory as something that felt good to do”, she said. As her career has been in overseas development, always in non-profit leadership, it was full of volunteering challenges.
How coaching can help
For Harried Dodd, coaching means unlocking potential in you. “The coach is helping you be the better version of yourself that you want. There is nothing for me like the joy, maybe in the middle of a coaching session, when somebody’s eyes open a little bit wider. And it is not something I said but the connection that has been made in somebody’s head. It can be powerful.
Harriet is involved in supporting projects from Edinburgh, where she is currently living (she began volunteering with Link UP when she lived in Wandsworth). “Volunteering is a mutual process. The DNA within the nonprofit is all about passing on benefits to others. When you volunteer or work with that sector, you are potentially connecting with people and improving the lives of others in wider context, it is a double win.”
How to teach a child to start volunteering
From family and school role models, children learn that volunteering means freely offering time and effort for community service. Harriet thinks children can learn to acknowledge the presence of people around them or to be aware of things that are beyond them. “I think safety and love in childhood would probably make it easier to be kind. My husband is from Sudan and half of my family is Sudanese. In Sudan, it is out of the question that you would not greet someone who enters the room. There is no question that you wouldn’t stop what you were doing - whether you were on the phone or something else - and acknowledge someone else’s presence. Here in Uk it can be different. A friend who picks up her grandchildren told me they barely talk to her because they are on their phones. There is something missing here. You can teach children to lift up their chins and eyes and acknowledge others and the world around. That might be the very beginning of a connection to volunteering.”
No act of volunteering is too small
Many people feel the issues humanity is struggling with - from climate change effects, and poverty to refugees and social exclusion, just to name a few, are so overwhelming that a small hand on their part would not make any difference. At the question what would you say to someone who considers that, Harriet said that when you drink a bottle of Coca-Cola you do not think that you are making someone extremely rich, but you are ($24bn profits in 2022). “It is a question about anything we do. It is a choice: just as every bottle you drink contributes to the profits, every bottle recycled, every tiny thing you do similarly makes a contribution.”
Also, it is important to stick to one’s values and live by them. “If you believe that kindness is a value that you want to work for, then every time you are not kind you are negating what you believe in. How does that feel?” asks Harriet.
Serving the community or learning from new groups of people can be one of the experiences during volunteering. Each has different meanings each is enriching. “I am volunteering in Edinburgh because it helps me get to know people, and understand the place. And in my values, I want to give to the place I live.” Also, a critical lesson to learn when you volunteer is that working with people you see as poorer than you, or who are refugees, are not defined by their misfortune. All of us, anyone could be in their situation. “Involving yourself and learning what that might be like, the kind of exposure to difference is fantastic. Volunteering is the essence of collaborating to make the world a better place - do it! Why would you not?” Harriet said.
On reflection, Harriet believes she probably does not volunteer as much as she thinks she could. “What matters to me is integrity is important. To me, integrity is about being true to what I think matters and that includes supporting other people by volunteering” Harriet Dodd concludes.
How Link UP helps
Harriet found time, among her many projects, for Link UP London, which she feels is one of the most fulfilling. One of the workshops offered for Link UP members was about Listening Skills, together with Jo Kemp. “It was great fun, I would like to do that again”, Harriet remembers. The online experience was a win-win situation - “and this is what volunteering is about”. Harriet went on to offer leadership coaching to an organisation. What is marvellous about Link UP, Harriet noted, is that often people want to help but do not know what to do or how and Link UP can help with that. “It is a great way for anyone to see how his/her skills and expertise can make a difference, and how using your skills in this way can make an impact both personally and professionally.”
About our Guest Blogger Anca Stef
Anca is a Communication Specialist with experience in mass media, PR and digital marketing.