Here is the second part of our volunteering story from the summer edition of Army&You. We spoke to Liz and Nicola to find out where they’ve been making a difference in their overseas communities…
Liz volunteers as the Chair of SSAFA fundraising committee in Canada.
She says: “It can be hard to find employment for the first couple of months of any new posting, but I have found that volunteering has often led to employment once people have seen how dedicated you are. I’m in awe of the commitment, time and dedication that everyone involved with SSAFA Canada gives. At every meeting the table is full of willing volunteers happy to give up their time to benefit our community.
“The group is fun, inclusive and makes you feel as though you’re a part of something that can make a difference. I feel valued and hope that we in turn make all of our committee members feel valued as it’s that feeling of belonging and being appreciated which makes an individual want to squash yet more stuff into already busy lives.
“Being elbow deep in paint dust and water bombs for the infamous annual Ralston Colour Run fundraiser (pictured) or rushing to distribute ‘welcome back from exercise’ ice-creams to 800 troops before they – the troops and the ice creams – melt in the 30 degree sunshine are great team-building exercises and I love that.”
Advice to others
“Getting stuck into events together builds relationships and breaks down barriers. Every year SSAFA holds a conference for volunteers where representatives from around the world come together in London for a few days. It’s a chance to network and receive training in areas such as safeguarding,” adds Liz.
Nicola volunteers for Home-Start in Cyprus. She says: “I had never volunteered for anything apart from organised litter picking. I didn’t have the time after working, running my children around and generally keeping on top of everything else that family life demands. I used to think that volunteers were saints. How do they do that? Why do they do that? Now I know why…
“On moving to Cyprus, I knew there were very limited job opportunities but as the months went by, I felt I was missing something and that I needed to feel useful, so I started volunteering for Home-Start.
“It’s a charity that supports families with children under the age of five who are struggling to cope for various reasons, providing non-judgemental practical and emotional support. I feel passionate about empowering people to overcome their problems so that they can live better lives and being a volunteer helps me to help those people.”
What skills have you learnt?
“I’ve met lots of like-minded people on the various training courses and I’ve used my skills and experience to help others. Yes, it can be challenging as I don’t have a magic wand however, the rewards by far outweigh any doubts I have when you see a family blossoming following the support you have given them,” says Nicola.
Advice to others
“If you’re posted abroad, it’s worth looking at volunteering roles to make you feel like you’re contributing to your community,” she adds.