Volunteer Development Manager at OnSide, Georgia Hannen, oversees the volunteering programme across the OnSide Network, she supports with developing and implementing the volunteer strategy within the Youth Zones. In this blog Georgia shares why volunteering is important, and why volunteers are such a key part of a Youth Zone’s success.
As someone responsible for a volunteer programme, Volunteers’ Week is always a good time for me to sit back and reflect on the impact our volunteers have on our over-arching cause. In our case at OnSide, we’re determined to make sure that all young people have the opportunity to shine; to explore their passions and purpose, through our Youth Zones. It got me thinking that, without our hundreds of volunteers, we really wouldn’t be able to achieve this mission at all! Here’s five reasons why volunteering is important and the difference volunteers make:
- More hands-on deck
If you’ve been to one of our Youth Zones during a session you’ll know that it is really is all hands-on deck to support the hundreds of young people that come through a Youth Zone on any given evening! Our volunteers help us operationally ensuring we are able to offer all the fantastic opportunities that we do, every single night. A volunteer might mean the difference between having three rooms of activity available for young people, or four. Or simply just joining the staff on session, providing extra support to our staff, which allows them to offer the very best session to our young people.
- More skills and experiences
For charities – involving volunteers gives us access to valuable new skills and experiences; which means more opportunity for our young people. For example brining in a volunteer with business or corporate experience can be invaluable in supporting young people with employability skills and support, while people with experience in fitness and sport are invaluable supporting in the gym. Skilled volunteers help our young people to try out things that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.Involving people who have had many different experiences throughout their lives, gives our young people the opportunity to interact with interesting individuals who they wouldn’t typically meet who can listen to and learn from.
- More time
During a session, Youth Workers can see up to as many as 150 young people in an evening. That’s a lot of young people for the staff to spend time with! Having volunteers on session means that there are more trusted adult listening ears available, that are able to spend a more time with a young person, particularly if it is their first session or they are not confident joining in with activities. Giving our young people the opportunity to be, and feel supported, means that they’ll continue to join us, engaging with their peers, the Youth Zones and the activities we offer. On top of this, our Volunteer Mentors provide some of our young people who may need a little extra support, with one-on-one time that can really make a huge difference. Anyone can be a mentor, as their role is to give positive support to their mentee, to help them increase their independence and confidence. Without volunteers, the mentoring programme isn’t one that we would ever be able to run.
- A direct link to the community
There’s a unique partnership between Youth Zones and the local community. When a new Youth Zone is opened in a community one of the ways we build strong relationships is to provide meaningful volunteering opportunities that connect the community with the Youth Zone. This also gives the opportunity to help make a real difference to the lives of local young people.
- Leadership opportunities
Volunteering is not just for adults. We provide young people with the opportunity to volunteer themselves. Youth Zones run a Young Leaders programme, where young members of the Youth Zones can help to support sessions. This is a vital learning opportunity in leadership, building confidence and supporting other young people – all within the confines of a supportive space that they already know and love. It is a fantastic opportunity for growth and we have seen many young people be so inspired by the experience that they go onto pursue careers in youth work themselves.
Volunteers provide untold opportunities for the young people using our Youth Zones, and we couldn’t do what we do without them. They have added value where we didn’t even know value could be added and, for that, we are incredibly grateful.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, for everything that you do.
We’re always looking for more volunteers to join our team. If you’re interested in volunteering at your local Youth Zone, take a look at our website to learn more about how you can get involved.
Volunteer Development Manager