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Volunteering taught me to work for a cause and not for applause

Toby has been volunteering for a couple of homeless charities over the last few years and is really keen to highlight how he’s benefited from volunteering.


Prior to receiving my conviction I had a pretty high profile job which provided me with a fantastic lifestyle and the respect of my family, friends and peers. I worked hard and got great results for my clients and would regularly be ‘slapped on the back’ by colleagues telling me what a great guy I was.

That all changed when I received a conviction for a serious offence and spent time in prison. I lost absolutely everything; family, friends, home, job and respect. I deserved it of course and having nothing allowed me to re-evaluate my life and what was important.

Towards the end of my sentence, I was able to apply for voluntary work and was granted a temporary licence by the prison to go out every day. I volunteered for a charity supporting homeless people and I loved every minute of it. I didn’t get paid a big fat salary but I got so much job satisfaction.

I’ve now left prison and continue to volunteer – a different charity but the same user group. Last week my manager gave me some information about Volunteers Week which celebrates the work done by volunteer’s right across the country. This got me thinking about what volunteering has done for me.

Volunteering offers different people different things but for me it:

  • Makes me feel good – Volunteering makes me happy (there’s academic research to prove it). Giving my time to others gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
  • Has increased my connections – The relationships I’ve developed when volunteering have been endless and these new networks have kept my mental and emotional health in good shape.
  • Has given my life a purpose – People with convictions can feel very isolated but volunteering gave me a reason to get up in the morning.
  • Taught me new skills – Volunteering has given me the opportunity to explore new skills and interests that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to try.

So, if you’ve got a bit of spare time while you’re looking for work and with all the perks that volunteering can offer – there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot.

By Toby (name changed to protect identity)


Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  • Information – We have some practical self-help information on volunteering
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to volunteering on our online forum.

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