There is a Greek proverb that goes: “A civilisation flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit”. Indeed, this powerful statement perfectly sums up the essence of volunteering. From Gandhi to Winston Churchill, to the very teachings of Islam, volunteering has always been at the very heart of humanity. However, being a student, whether in college or university, it is often difficult to find the time, and sometimes the reason, to volunteer. Life is busy enough, why should students bother to be unpaid helpers? The following is a list of 10 simple reasons why it is in the best interests of a student to give a bit of their time to the community. Students will find, in the end, the outcome to be far greater than the effort that was put in.
1. It’s an act of charity
“There is a sadaqa (charity) due on every Muslim; if he cannot give because he has no money, let him work then he can support himself and give charity; if he is unable to work, then let him help someone in need of his help…” (Ahmad, Bukhari and Muslim)
Charity is an obligation upon every Muslim and the word “charity” has many definitions. Helping someone in need is considered a charitable act. Volunteering is a beautiful way of doing your part as a Muslim and extending your hand to those who need a bit of extra help. Often, students are on tight budgets and find it difficult to donate sums of money to causes. Instead, students should consider the option of taking part in fundraising events that will allow them to contribute their efforts as an act of charity.
2. Make your CV stand out from the crowd
If you’ve been tuned into the mass media for the past few years, you’ve probably heard that we are in a recession. Getting a job is tough and it’s not getting any easier. This is why you need to have more on your CV than just amazing grades. Ms Joan Johnstone is the Employability Co-ordinator at Kingston University London. She says that, very often, your CV will look very similar to others who have applied for the same job. This is where volunteering will set you apart. “Graduate recruiters are always telling us that in a market where there are so many graduates after the same jobs, it can be hard for an employer to pick a shortlist of candidates to interview,” she says. “You may be up against students with the same type of paid employment or academic history, so having some evidence of volunteering may very well differentiate you from the other applicants and get you an interview.”
3. Forget the books for a moment and live in the moment
As students, we get caught up pulling all-nighters to write essays, study the night away in a crammed university library while chugging down coffee and Redbull. As a result, we often miss out on the simpler, yet in many ways greater, pleasures of life. And though getting good grades is essential, it’s also essential to enjoy the life that has been given to you by the Almighty. There is a world beyond the library or that small, messy room of yours. Volunteering helps you explore your community, and if you’re brave enough, the world. It gives you the golden chance to see and experience life beyond textbooks or TV programmes. And besides, between you and me, the library isn’t going anywhere.
4. Challenge yourself
One of the great joys of volunteering is the challenges that you face, simply because you wouldn’t face them during your average, everyday college or university life. For example, if you are tutoring a child with learning difficulties and he’s refusing to continue reading, what do you do? Those are the very challenges that develop and change you as a person. And most importantly, they make you grow. “Volunteers often end up gaining experience and skills in job roles they would perhaps never consider doing on a paid basis,” says Ms Johnstone. “So it is also a good way of developing an understanding of different job roles.” I once volunteered as a tutor for children from low-income ethnic minority families. The experience that I attained at the end was, and still is, invaluable.
5. Gain knowledge
Gaining knowledge opens doors for you and welcomes you to a whole world of opportunities. When you volunteer, you learn things that you never knew. The more you gain knowledge, the more you know about the world and the diversity within it, and you will find yourself much more aware and better-informed about what happens in and around your community.
6. Make a difference
Knowing that you are the reason someone else’s life is a bit easier, and knowing that you are a cause for everything running smoothly is one of the greatest rewards you will get. It’s a win-win situation.
7. Develop and sharpen your skills
When you challenge yourself, it is a given that you will develop skills that you were not confident with before (talking in front of a crowd, answering phones etc). Volunteering helps you step outside your comfort zone and sharpen skills that will not only come in handy during everyday life, but during your professional career as well. Ms Joan says: “Volunteering is an excellent way of building up further employability skills, whether it is for a small local community group or for a national charity. Volunteering requires enthusiasm, commitment and a strong work ethic and these are all qualities that an employer will seek in a graduate.”
8. Build up a network
Certain jobs, especially media related jobs, require you to get your face out there. Through volunteering, you get the golden opportunity to meet people that could help you get your next job. You also build up the list of references who can give you a good recommendation, increasing the possibility of getting that job you’ve got your eyes on.
9. Make new friends
There is something pleasant in connecting with people who find joy in the same things you do, and there is also something exciting
about getting to know people who are completely different from you! Universities like Kingston University London embrace diversity and have societies dedicated to volunteering where students from all courses and ethnicities come together. By the end of the year you are bound to have friends from all over the world, ranging from Denmark to Australia.
10. Have fun
Volunteering is a fun way to add a twist to your normal day-to-day routine that may involve studies and a part-time job. You will enjoy a newly discovered hobby that provides an opportunity for you to express yourself in a creative way (something that your academic essay does not). Whether it’s organising sleepovers for children at The British Museum, picking out literature for adults who want to learn how to read properly or painting pictures for a nursing home, have fun while being inspired. With new friends and acquaintances, engaging in volunteer work helps you find new creativity, motivation and vision in your life. You will meet new people, see new places, learn, laugh and grow. Ultimately, you will find that volunteering is a unique, exciting and fun way to rediscover the dynamic aspects of your personality, as well as uncover new skills and interests that will come into play in other aspects of your life.
It’s been said that work that you have fun doing doesn’t feel like work at all. And that’s volunteering in a nutshell!
Mashaal Mir is a Danish-Pakistani second year BA student studying journalism with politics at Kingston University London. Interested in political and religious discussions, she usually finds herself in the centre of heated debates at friends’ gatherings, family dinners and class reunions. You can follow her website www.mashaalmir.com