Volunteering can be one of the best ways for young people to get out and about, learn transferable skills and meet new friends.
Volunteering gives young people an opportunity to give something back to their community or to support a cause that is important to them, e.g. animal welfare or environmental issues.
With such busy lives, young people might think they don’t have time for volunteering, but the great thing is that even one hour of their time each week can make a real difference to a small charity or organisation. If school commitments prevent a regular agreement, there are always one-off opportunities to volunteer, e.g. litter picks or bring-and-buy sales.
Children and young people who struggle to make friends with others their own age or spend a lot of time on their own, can often flourish and grow in confidence when they are spending time with people who share similar interests, e.g. animal lovers, recycling enthusiasts.
Gain new skills and life experience
While volunteering is enjoyable and rewarding in its own right, it can also help a young person develop valuable skills like:
- working as part of a team
- time management.
These skills will help their Personal Statement or CV stand out when they are applying for training or university, or looking for a job.
Some volunteering opportunities require young people to take a short course or introduction session, while others provide training which lasts a lifetime, e.g. St John Ambulance teaches first aid to its cadets (aged 10-17).
Awards and qualifications
Volunteering is an important element of both the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) and the Welsh Baccalaureate
The DoE describes volunteering as giving ‘time to do something useful without getting paid (apart from expenses)’ and expects Bronze Award participants to be involved in practical volunteering for at least one hour a week for a minimum of three months
The Welsh Baccalaureate requires young people to spend fifteen hours on active community participation (Foundation Level).
Voluntary opportunities for disabled young people
Disabled young people have a lot to give and will reap the same benefits from volunteering as their peers.
Volunteering Matters in Wales believes children and young people can make all the difference to their communities and has projects run by and for young people, including young disabled people. There are part-time and full-time opportunities.
Remember, not all volunteering opportunities involve leaving the home – charities also need help with social media, IT, graphic design, administration, etc.
What age does a volunteer need to be?
Most volunteering opportunities start from about 14; however, if your child shows an interest in volunteering at a young age, why not look for something to do together, e.g. parkrun’s free 5km runs are marshalled entirely by volunteers, many of whom are children volunteering alongside their parents.
More than 50 schools in South Wales are also participating in First Give so it’s worth asking if your child’s school is involved.
Younger children can also volunteer at school events, e.g. selling programmes for the school play, or perhaps make craft items to raise money for their favourite charity.
Safeguarding young volunteers
Organisations owe all their volunteers a ‘duty of care’ and young volunteers need to be kept safe while volunteering. Similarly, there are safeguarding issues when the young person themselves are volunteering with vulnerable groups including other children.
The Wales Council for Voluntary Action has published a leaflet, Involving Young People as Volunteers.
If you have any concerns about your child’s voluntary placement it is important to raise them with the organisation.