Since returning back home for the Summer, I have been making a point of spending time doing things that will help me grow as an individual, and that will benefit my future career, as well as my mental health and general wellbeing. One of those things, I have found, is spending time volunteering in my local community.
Specifically, I have been working in an area that I wish to have a career in. Unfortunately, a part-time job in what I want to do is non-existent, as you need the qualifications to do the work, but the qualifications alone aren’t going to necessarily get me the job, hence why I want the experience! Solution? Volunteering! (Check out Gee’s post for reasons why you should volunteer!)
As some people know, I want to train to become a fully registered Health Psychologist, working with people, companies, and the government, to help improve the health and wellbeing of as many people as possible. In particular, I want to work in the field of food and eating behaviour. Now that I’ve graduated, I have some time to prepare myself for the MSc Health Psychology course that I have been accepted onto, and I’m spending some of that time volunteering. I am helping a local organisation that provides support and information for clients struggling with their weight, consumption habits, continuing to smoke, and so on. They guide them onto health programmes and conduct their own health assessments, so I am helping people to get over the blocks that are preventing them from change.
During my time so far at LiveWellLuton, I have had a few experiences helping them out. I’ve worked with members of the team at Staff Health Days at my local hospital, promoting the organisation and what they do, as well as handing out free informational materials for others to improve their health. When I was inducted as a ‘volunteer health champion’, I was given the opportunity to shadow one of the initial health assessments that clients are asked to come to, and trust me when I say it is an emotional process. I have massive respect for members of the team who help people through that process.
One programme that I have really enjoyed assisting with is the ‘Cook and Eat’ sessions, where people are taught healthy, easy recipes, that are fairly cheap to make and give them a starting point in learning how to prepare good, nutritious meals. While it’s more hands on compared to the more academic side of things, where the focus is understanding theoretical underpinnings of human health behaviour, the experience that I gain working with these people is invaluable. Not only am I strengthening my communication skills, but listening to their struggles and experiences surrounding their health will definitely influence the way I approach my future goals. It is important to recognise the real human struggles behind things like health, so that when researchers and academics develop theories and undertake studies, they do it from the stand point of real-world applications.
There are so many benefits of volunteering! You will get to help your local community and also gain valuable skills that will make you stand out in a crowd of graduates. So, summer volunteering… get into it!