Volunteering as a way of living


Recently we had a fascinating discussion on volunteering with a great group of women. All of us are active volunteers in the Neighbourhood Mothers (Naapuriäiti) Project. Our discussion started with the simple question: How can volunteering help you to find a job? The answer is even simpler. It can help you a lot.

Volunteering in Finland is pretty common. It is a popular way to meaningfully spend free time. According to Finland’s country report for a study on volunteering in European Union, many Finnish people are members of different organisations during their lifetime. Very often they have membership in multiple organisations. The study shows that Finland holds the 6th highest rate of volunteering in Europe, with 36% active adult volunteers in the last 12 months preceding the study. 

It made me think if some of us tend to do more voluntary work during our lifetime than others. I know people on the whole spectrum: those who volunteer a lot, also those who have never done anything without being paid and the majority somewhere in between. 

In our group of volunteers, we realised how much voluntary work we have done. We all had been actively involved in NGOs in our home countries – mostly focusing on helping people in need.

I remember my first voluntary position during my teenage years as an ecological activist. I volunteered as a volleyball coach for about two years and I also spent a month as a volunteer in a resocialization community for drug users in Poland. I offered my free time during the World AIDS conference in Vienna and did some little voluntary work for the Finnish Red Cross. Most of my experience as a volunteer prepared me much better for the paid job positions I have had during my career.

I have realised that for me it’s easy to invest my time and energy into the projects I believe in or into the activities I also enjoy at the same time. And to be honest, some of my voluntary activities ended up as paid positions. What teaches you better how to motivate a bunch of teenage girls than being their volleyball coach? What gives you a broader perspective on life than listening to people who came through the addictions? What makes you think about lonely and most vulnerable ones during the Covid-19 pandemic more than packing face masks for them?

But the most important thing to keep in mind during your volunteering is to do what you like and what you are interested in. Of course, we can occasionally also volunteer in activities we are not completely passionate about. But it is energy consuming and it should rather be a one-time activity. 

If I invest my time and energy into something, it should be something which I can also enjoy. And this is what I particularly like about being a volunteer for Neighbourhood Mothers. I have always had a strong connection with female issues and feminisms. As a Neighbourhood Mother, I can be active exactly in a way I find suitable for me. Some of us organize language clubs, others prepare videos about our project. Our ladies cook and bake together online or have mindfulness workshops. We talk about Christmas traditions in our countries or we manage flea markets for our network. And the best thing is that all of us can be active in any language we want. 

During my almost one year as a Neighbourhood Mother, I have done workshops about different topics, covering issues like violence on women, building a positive self-image or crafts. I also put together a small Facebook campaign to end violence on women and I currently facilitate a self-supportive group for job-seeking women within our network. Honestly, I can’t even choose what I like the most. I can do whatever I want and at a frequency that is good for me. There is always support from project workers or my peers. Being involved in such a project deepens my hard and soft skills and teaches me about cultural sensibility every single day. And once, when my dream job is about to find me, these are all the competencies I can offer. Without volunteering during my whole life I would not have become the person I am. 

And if you are currently looking for ways how to be active during your job search or even after you land in employment, check out some of the organisations. I am sure you can find something that catches your eye. And if you have a feeling, that becoming the Neighbourhood Mother might be your thing, you’re welcome to join us. Training will start soon!   

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