Volunteering benefits

Volunteering benefits

I’m 83 and have been volunteering for over 50 years. I can’t remember why I decided to volunteer for the Samaritans, but it was both an enlightening and saddening experience. Some people seemed to have lives almost like a Greek tragedy and yet their spirit so often rose above their troubles. After training, I volunteered for seven years, mainly at weekends, providing what is known as ‘non-directive counselling’.

Did I help? I’ve no idea. I hope so, because it taught me something early in life that is so important: that forgiveness is the real way to inner peace (and in the end, you may even learn to forgive yourself).

Later I joined Community Service Volunteers and specifically, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), finding work for volunteers and helping people who wanted to start a charity of their own. That was interesting but time consuming and so I gave it up when it felt too much like the managerial job I’d retired from!

So, having rescued two dogs via Blue Cross, I joined their education department to give talks to children about choosing, taking care of, and staying safe around pets. I also give talks to adult groups about the history of fundraising at Blue Cross. I’m in my eighth year with them now – the kids and the adults are lovely. It’s still fun – and it needs to be; if you don’t enjoy your volunteering, you won’t do it very well. I reckon I’ve spoken to over 13,500 children and my dog has been petted by about 6,000 of them.

So I hope I’ve been of some use. Me? I’ve benefitted enormously.

Jon Westoby