Volunteering a way to step outside of yourself, students say

May 22, 2019

Volunteering a way to step outside of yourself, students say

Student Gemma Nash (right) has found “value in the little acts of giving” through volunteering. Photo: Lawrence Pascual

University students volunteering around Auckland find the experience to be key in gaining perspective.

Across different volunteering experiences, students echoed each other’s reasoning: if you are in a privileged position, why not give a little?

Kate McLeod, 21, volunteers at a women’s prison once a week, caring for the babies of mothers behind bars.

“The fact that I have the time and ability to volunteer is a privilege in itself…if I can do it, I should be doing it,” Ms McLeod said.

On Mondays Thomas Hensman, 22, can be found at community organisation Gratis on Karangahape Rd, serving free food and conversation to all who walk through the door.

“I’ve got free time and I want to give because I feel like I’m in a position where I can offer my service,” he said.

Students acknowledged their own fortune, having a support network around them, and voiced desire to provide that for those less blanketed by care.

Rebecca Neil, 21, volunteers at Youthline, providing free counselling via the phone to all who call or text in.

“There are a lot of people in New Zealand that don’t have many people they can just call if they are in distress,” Ms Neil said.

As university students, they all agreed that volunteering is a way to get an idea of the wider picture.

“I think it is so important to open up your world to outside of your own…it’s so easy to get caught up in the university bubble, but other people don’t get this opportunity and live completely different lives,” Ms McLeod said.

Gemma Nash, 21, volunteers at Auckland City Mission on weekends.

Ms Nash said it’s about looking at your priorities, then asking yourself how important it is to commit part of your week to helping others.

“I think, especially when you are at uni, it is easy to become quite selfish. You have to focus on yourself, because you are focussing on getting your degree…so much of your time goes into uni.”

For Ms Nash, direct contact with people beyond immediate circles provides a dose of perspective.

“Hard stuff has happened to these people. You learn to interact with people you’d normally never see - you’d otherwise just be hanging out with university students.”

As well as extending care beyond yourself, volunteering can be a great way to be exposed to people from all walks of life, Mr Hensman said.

“[It’s about] learning to talk to different people and form relationships when your interests are so different.”

Both Ms Neil and Ms Nash used the words “compassion” and “understanding” when speaking on what they’d learnt from volunteering, recognising that it is an important attitude to adopt in all areas of life.

“You don’t have to have that volunteering attitude just when you are volunteering. I think when you so actively give your time to other people, it gets you into that mindset for the rest of your week…and it is a lot easier to just give to people,” Ms Nash said.

AUT student employability specialist Nicola Buisman said it doesn’t matter where you volunteer, the important thing is to just get involved.

“Employers are no longer just looking for good grades, they want to see a well-rounded person with a personality and being socially responsible.”

Links to various volunteering opportunities:

Gratis: http://www.gratisfreestore.org/

Youthline: http://www.youthline.co.nz

Auckland City Mission: http://www.aucklandcitymission.org.nz

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