Change must come from individuals choosing to make a difference for others – and for themselves.
By Jonathan Andrews
I was recently thrilled to find out I’d been honoured with a Community Links Bromley award for a sustained commitment to volunteering in the local community. I have worked locally for archaeological charity Crofton Roman Villa, as well as representing Burgess Autistic Trust as a poet for the last two years.
In my experience, volunteering is not something people always seem enthusiastic about – it can often appear like a nice way of saying ‘work for no reward.’ However, this is far from what good volunteering actually is.
While volunteering may not enable one to receive monetary rewards, it provides people – especially young people, and particularly those with other barriers preventing them from accessing employment as easily, such as a disability or social circumstance, a chance to gain valuable life skills. It builds confidence and allows people to meet others outside their usual social circles, learning how to build new friendships or working relationships and consider perspectives or ways of living different from those they’re used to.
And, of course, it benefits the wider community. Thanks to the volunteers at Crofton Roman Villa, people living in and around Orpington are afforded an awareness of their local history which would otherwise remain buried. Thanks to staff at Burgess Autistic Trust, people with autism and their families are able to gain assistance and understanding, when they might well otherwise be lost in a completely new world, post-diagnosis, they can’t comprehend.
Volunteering is something which should be enthusiastically encouraged, whatever good cause or causes a person chooses to support. It’s great the British government has pushed support in recent years – with schemes such as National Citizen Service, the Big Society Awards, and the return of the British Empire Medal (BEM) to reward local community volunteers through the honours system.
Ultimately, change must come from individuals choosing to make a difference for others – and for themselves. Because while volunteering is, at is heart, about doing good for others, we should never forget the benefits it gives the volunteer – and the lessons it teaches.
Jonathan Andrews is a future trainee solicitor at Reed Smith. Jonathan is on the autism spectrum and volunteers his time and expertise to increasing autism awareness – he sits on parliament’s Westminster Autism Commission, the government’s Work and Health expert group, the Law Society’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and many more. He also volunteers for Ambitious about Autism and Mind, as well as helping his local community. These efforts have seen him rewarded with a “British Citizen Award from the House of Lords,” which recognizes individuals doing extraordinary things in their local community.
This blog was originally posted on the Ambitious about Autism website. Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. They provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change. Through TreeHouse School and Ambitious College they offer specialist education and support. Their ambition is to make the ordinary possible for more children and young people with autism.