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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 3 September, 2014

Column: I had no job but volunteering helped me feel more fulfilled

Graduate Paul Lang found himself unemployed after leaving college but said that volunteering was the first step to getting his life back on track.

Paul Lang

After graduating Paul Lang was one of the many students who found himself unemployed. However, determined to stay active he took up a position in a local charity shop and found it a humbling experience. He writes:

IS VOLUNTEERING GOOD for the soul? Well, in my own circumstances I have found that there are many benefits to volunteering with an organisation such as Oxfam.

Since I started volunteering I have had the great privilege to meet some very interesting and exciting people from totally different backgrounds. Volunteering has allowed me the benefit to build up a network of new friends from the likes of Brazil, Spain, Africa, Japan and even France. So, in my opinion volunteering is good for the soul, yes!

I’m more content and happy with my life since I started. It gives one the chance to make some great friends who are all there to help in whatever way they can.

Unemployment

When I started helping out at Oxfam’s George’s Street shop, I was unemployed. I felt that volunteering would be a great way to keep active. I wanted to feel like I was doing something worthwhile with my life.

After four years in college (doing a Humanities Course in St Patrick’s College and a Masters in Political and Public Communication in DCU) I felt ready to contribute to society and I wasn’t happy to just sit around doing nothing and feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to volunteer.

More importantly, I realised that even though my life might be quite depressing, I am still a very privileged, young, healthy man compared to the millions of people and young children around the world who aren’t as lucky as I am to have a home or even a dinner every evening. I wanted to do something with my life and volunteering was the first step to getting my life back on track.

Honoured

Initially when I started volunteering, it was more of a way to give my life structure. Now however, after a few months of working there and learning about the business side of things in the organisation, I have a very different viewpoint. If volunteering with Oxfam ultimately helps tackle poverty and prevent needless deaths across Africa then I am honoured to be able to contribute to the cause by volunteering.

I am no longer unemployed. I work 20 hours a week on a Community Employment scheme with another voluntary organisation Cluid Housing Association. I still try and find time though to help out in the shop at least two days a week. I do this because I believe in helping the cause to build a brighter future for people affected by poverty and if working in an Oxfam shop goes some way to supporting this, then I am proud to be called a volunteer.

It is a very good feeling knowing that a bit of friendly assistance to customers could encourage a sale, with all the proceeds going towards building a better future.

For instance, if I sell a coat it can go towards buying a family in the Democratic Republic of Congo an eco-friendly efficient stove that uses half the wood of traditional methods. If I make a €25 sale, I can help feed a family in West Africa for two weeks, which really puts the whole importance of volunteering into perspective for me.

Fulfillment

On a personal level, volunteering has helped me feel more fulfilled with my life. I would encourage anyone to help out and volunteer, especially anyone who is unemployed.

It helps give you structure in your life and allows you to network with new people which could lead to opportunities down the road for employment.

It is also a great thing that stands out on the CV when you haven’t been employed for a while. Employers would be impressed by someone who shows initiative by volunteering while they are in-between jobs.

I am certain it helped me get the CE scheme with Cluid Housing Association. Volunteering has been such a positive influence in my life that I recently decided to sign up to another organisation and help out with the ISPCC fundraising campaign for ChildLine.

12 months ago I never would have signed up for something like that, but volunteering has helped me grow and realise the importance of giving back.

There are over 1000 people voluteering in Oxfam’s 51 shops across Ireland. Their initiatives provide vital food aid, cash-for-work schemes, water and sanitation and support for farmers in areas like West Africa, where 18 million lives are at risk and one million children suffer with severe malnutrition. Oxfam shops are experiencing a drop in items being donated and the Make Space for Oxfam Campaign aims to encourage people to clear out their clutter and bring unwanted clothes, books and home-wares to their local Oxfam shop. For more information click here.

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