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Mary Oshinyemi: Volunteering – it’s so much more than just giving up your time

05 Jun 2019 Voices

Volunteering brings different generations together, writes Mary Oshinyemi, who volunteers with St John Ambulance.

Everyone is a volunteer. From helping an old lady cross the street to working the till at a charity shop, every individual has the ability to make a difference to a person’s life in some way.

Volunteering uniquely brings people of all generations together, uniting them with the hope of improving other peoples’ quality of life. This comes with the added bonus of providing the volunteer with the scope of personal development and I believe that, particularly in modern day society, it’s extremely important for the younger generation to view volunteering as a necessary method of socialising with others from all walks of life.

As a 17-year-old teenager, I volunteer weekly with St John Ambulance and I feel as though I’m able to contribute something positive to the world. I believe one of the major strengths of volunteering is the generous and kind-hearted people you meet – that’s the main reason why I volunteer and will continue to do so in the future.

I’d initially decided to join St John Ambulance as I had always wanted a career in health and quite honestly thought it would just look good on my CV (which it does!). I had only expected to stay for 10 months, at most a year, but funnily enough it’s been 3 years since I started volunteering and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon

For me, another benefit of volunteering is the useful skills you can learn. Roughly a year ago, whilst on the beach with my friends, I came across a girl who had been accidentally hit on the head with a rock. Using the knowledge I had acquired through volunteering with St John Ambulance, I assessed and treated her, eventually making sure she could get home safe.

This was the first time that I had ever treated someone by myself and the confidence in my abilities that I had through my volunteering meant that I felt comfortable making sure she was adequately taken care of. Without my volunteering as a St John Ambulance cadet, I would have never known how to help her and the outcome of that day may have been very different. These skills and experiences will last me a lifetime; I know I’ll be able to still treat people when I’m 97 years old. It’s undeniable that knowledge which will last a lifetime is a lot to take away from something that’s based around giving.

This year, I’ve even been lucky enough to become the St John Ambulance National Cadet of the Year, competing against cadets from all over the country in a range of challenges including an individuals first aid scenario, a strictly timed presentation, group discussion, group task and interview with members such as the CEO and Chief Volunteer of St John Ambulance. This has surpassed all of my expectations and I feel so lucky to be part of such a supportive and caring community – I have so much respect for the huge amount of effort put in to teach lifesaving skills to everyone, from adults to those as young as six or seven. Overall, I have seen how volunteering creates an aura of belonging and individual sense of purpose that can help bring communities together.

The experiences and opportunities that someone can get from volunteering are endless and I really think that for most young people it’s just taking that chance to do something new - you’ll never know where it’ll get you. I still remember how shocked I was to discover that kids could go to events such as London Marathon (which I went to this year!) and, with the supervision of an adult, treat real patients. It’s really incredible that cadets are allowed the opportunity to access this educational environment where they can meet a wide variety of hard-working adult first aiders and health care professionals.

It is said sometimes that all teenagers are addicted to their phones, but volunteering is an incredible way to pull yourself out of your comfort zone and learn things technology can’t teach you. One of the most important things I’ve learnt from volunteering is that you won’t get anywhere in life without the determination to work hard.

I think it’s a common misconception in schools and for a lot of young people to think that volunteering is just the required part of their DofE or other qualifications. Volunteering with St John Ambulance has proved to me that the negative stereotypes that a lot of my friends and school mates attribute to giving up your time are completely false, instead I’ve found that volunteering creates a hub of like-minded and driven individuals.

Since it’s Volunteers’ Week I just want to say thank you to all volunteers, for the tireless work that you do. And whether you’re thinking of volunteering or already do, you have the ability to impact the lives of those around you and those that you’re helping. The work you do and the hours you commit make you invaluable - so thank you and keep on volunteering. 


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