Home is wherever I volunteer

Lizzie BealeLizzie Beale is an ambassador for Step Up To Serve’s #iwill campaign and sits on NCVO’s advisory council. She graduated from Loughborough University this summer with a BA in Politics. Volunteering has been a significant part of her life for as long as she remembers, and she credits vInspired with having had ignited her social action journey. She now works in community relations.

As a member of ‘generation rent’, I’ve had six different addresses over the last four or so years. In some ways this is a positive thing as each new address brings a new adventure. However, the downside is that feeling at home in each of these locations takes time. That’s where volunteering steps in.

My volunteering journey

I was first encouraged to volunteer in school. At this time, I volunteered to gain new skills and to help other people.

That all changed when I moved away from home for the first time to go to university in Loughborough. While I loved every minute of my time at university, I was aware that university life existed in a bubble – it was easy to forget that the outside world continues to tick by. I wanted to feel part of this outside community too.

I joined vInspired’s Team V programme, taking part in three different social action campaigns:

  • Getting young people involved in the 2015 general election
  • Campaigning on food poverty
  • Raising awareness of young carers

Taking part in this programme meant I could make a positive impact in the local community, but the most important thing for me was that it allowed me to connect with the wider community outside of campus.

In my third year I went on a work placement in Bristol, an unfamiliar city where I knew no one. I loved being a Brownie when I was young, so I decided to ask about helping with a local unit. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. While I loved working with twenty inspiring young Brownies, what was most important to me were the friendships I made with the other leaders.

My journey with Girlguiding did not stop in Bristol. I helped with the Guides on my return to Loughborough, and now as a graduate having moved to West London, I volunteer with two units here. In fact, when I was offered my job in London, my first thought was – I wonder if there’s a Brownie unit nearby?

Making connections through volunteering

Recently, we’ve increasingly heard the phrase ‘youth loneliness’ on the news, and for me this is in part due to young people not being able to put roots down somewhere. As young people move around for education and work, we must give them ways to feel part of where they are living and to feel connected to those around them.

A few years ago, I became an ambassador for Step Up To Serve’s #iwill campaign, an organisation which aims to empower and connect young people through social action. However, combatting youth loneliness will take more than what Step Up to Serve can do alone. It will take schools to start young people off on their social action journeys before they leave home, it will take universities to remind students that there’s a world outside of campus that they can be a part of, and it will take employers to provide their new colleagues with the work-life balance that enables and encourages them to volunteer.

Volunteering has allowed me to feel at home in places I otherwise wouldn’t. It’s allowed me to meet people I would never have met. And it’s allowed me to feel a part of something that I otherwise would not have been part of.

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