Helping you learn more about yourself – Jo’s Story

I grew up in Yate; a small, quiet, parish town in Bristol. My volunteering history began in secondary school, back when I was a wallflower who loved to read. For two consecutive terms in 2012, I was a library assistant and spent my Wednesday lunchtimes processing book returns, updating folders and helping Mrs Wren organise library materials.

In November 2013, one of the most devastating cyclones ever recorded hit the Philippines. My family are from the north of the country (an area the typhoon spared), but seeing the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan on the news brought a sense of agony nonetheless. The Philippines received humanitarian response from numerous nations, including the UK. In hopes of boosting morale to the small but tightknit Filipino community in Yate, I organised a series of bake sale at my brother’s primary school, to contribute to the relief efforts.

Throughout 2014, I was a marshal volunteer at all of the 5K fun runs my mum participated in. The events were for Cancer Research, and looking back, it brought a remarkable sense of achievement to play a small part in putting the events together; especially cheering the last group of participants over the finish line.

In April 2015, I visited my mum’s hometown. The most memorable part of our trip was when I joined my mum and aunt (both of whom are nurses) to volunteer in a medical mission on a remote village. The medical mission lasted for one day but it was overwhelming to say the least; the weather was scorching, I hardly spoke the dialect and the presence of persistent bugs made it difficult to focus.  Nevertheless, I remained committed to my role which was to provide administrative assistance to the community health workers. It was a socially enlightening experience; not only did I learn about health care disparities between countries, it also fortified my profound respect and appreciation for healthcare professionals (like mama and auntie).

Upon moving to London towards the end of 2016, I discovered a wide variety of volunteering opportunities. My most recent stint took place last month in Enfield, where I volunteered as a race marshal for London Youth Rowing at a championship event.

As you can see, I have a sporadic volunteering experience in that it is mainly short term and event-based. In spite of the lack of consistency, I most assuredly can attest to this; volunteering can help you learn more about yourself.  Want to give back to your community and gain a new perspective without disrupting your existing commitments? I recommend volunteering at a local event.

Case in point: I’ve wanted to be a part of MSF (also known as Doctors Without Borders) since I returned from the medical mission I took part in. I hope to see this come to fruition soon as I apply for volunteering and internship vacancies at the MSF London office.

Jo Banasen