While I was still studying I was able to put aside two hours of an afternoon once a week, whilst completing my dissertation, and I found it a welcome break from my own stressful studies.
I first started volunteering with Doorstep Library at the end of my university studies in Journalism and Media. I used to love reading during secondary school but had fallen out of the habit until I started university and had to push myself to do secondary reading around my course. This spilled over into reading in my personal time and has now become a regular part of my life.
While I was still studying I was able to put aside two hours of an afternoon once a week, whilst completing my dissertation, and I found it a welcome break from my own stressful studies. After graduating I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands and I really wanted to put this to good use by helping a charity with a mission I supported wholeheartedly. I am now working part-time so the Thursday afternoon sessions fit perfectly into my routine.
How was it at the beginning?
When I first started, I had a lot of questions around the DBS check and the training process. I didn’t have an English birth certificate and had trouble finding multiple forms of identification, but the team were very helpful in answering any confusion I had with completing my DBS check and they were very engaging during the live training sessions on Zoom. The Doorstep Library staff are so accommodating and friendly, they are always understanding if I am unable to attend a session and the Team Leaders are always there to help when I have any questions.
What do I love about volunteering with Doorstep Library?
Volunteering with Doorstep Library has been wonderful as I have been able to meet so many lovely families and children, that really do want to read and try their best during our sessions. Many sessions have been humorous and rewarding, which I really need to thank the children for!
I enjoy meeting people, both families and volunteers, of different backgrounds and really getting to know them on a personal level. The stand-in volunteers I’ve worked alongside have all been so amazing and it’s great to meet people from a wide range of careers and ages interested in Doorstep Library’s mission. I have volunteered with accountants, university lecturers, retirees and many more!
It’s also had a very positive impact on me. I didn’t think I would be so interested in learning about children’s development and literature! It’s made me very grateful for the educational aide and support I received as a child, which hopefully I can carry on to the families I read with.
My favourite moment?
The most inspirational moment I have experienced so far is a six-year-old girl who told her parents she enjoyed our weekly reading sessions so much, it has pushed her to go on to read chapter books at home! It’s so heart-warming to see that these sessions have such an impact on the children’s enthusiasm to read on their own.
Another success story came when a stand-in volunteer and I encouraged a five-year-old girl, who was very shy and quiet at the start of my weekly reading sessions with her, to read on her own. She’s currently reading at a lower level than her age and had trouble reading a page out loud by herself. We were able to motivate her into pronouncing the words on her own and reassured her to ask for help if she needed it. She is now able to read a page by herself, and we’re now planning different ways to support her by picking books that will challenge her (and not intimidate her) to read more. In addition, she is so much more talkative and willing to give reading a go!
How has it benefitted me?
I have gained a lot of communication and management skills as volunteers take lead of their own reading sessions, plan reading around the needs of the children and work with each other and different families to make the Zoom (online) calls a meaningful session. The staff have been helpful when suggesting ideas on different techniques to encourage children to read on their own and they have always sent countless helpful resources (such as websites for different reading levels) that we can use in our sessions.
Volunteering is incredibly useful when job hunting. I personally found that talking about volunteering is a great way to show interest and willingness to help in your free time (which many employers appreciate)! During interviews, it has always helped to talk about what I have learned from volunteering and how I can use these new skills towards a role.
As I have gained more communication and management skills, I have also grown in confidence and I am now taking on more responsibility at my current workplace. With the help of a colleague, I have taken on the project of creating and sending out over 150 promotional items for clients and charities we work with. I hope to use the communication skills and experience in volunteering towards a future career in digital communication.
What advice would I give others?
I know that the application process and DBS checks can seem daunting, but I advise others thinking about volunteering to just go ahead and apply! It’s a great way to learn new skills, meet new people and give back to your local community.