Unusual but remarkable friends – Volunteering in Portsmouth

I volunteer at an Oxfam Charity shop in Portsmouth. I wanted to volunteer to gain some experience to get a part-time job. I thought I could add the skills I learnt in the shop to my CV and get a part-time job by the end of the year.

What I actually got out of volunteering in Portsmouth is something I never imagined, it was beyond my expectations, and something I will never forget.

I started volunteering with the expectation of giving up a few hours per week to gain the skills I needed and make a positive impact on those less fortunate.

I chose to volunteer for OXFAM. Their main work is to beat poverty and inequality in a global context, which I really respect and since I was young I have been passionate about helping children and young people in developing countries. Most of the big decisions I have made, such as coming to the UK to study have been steps towards working with vulnerable children in need.

As I spent more time in the shop, not only did I gain the skills I was looking for, I made friends from different backgrounds and ages to me. My shop manager was friendly and approachable and helped me to settle. She also gave me the courage and the push I needed to apply for the role of international student ambassador.

I bonded with one of the volunteers over the recent rugby world championship in Japan as I explained the buzzed anticipation I witnessed while I was in Japan over the summer, he revealed the support for his Welsh heritage. He even gifted me with a genuine Welsh flag to take back home and show my Japanese family (my mum was thrilled).

As a person who is a non-clubber/drinker and being in a minority group of students in my course who came from overseas, I did struggle to make friends at first and felt slightly ‘out of place’. This gradually changed but I was happy to be able to make social connections at the charity shop, who are unlike other friends from the university in a most wonderful way. I believe that I would never have met this remarkable group of people if I had decided not to volunteer at the shop.

Another unexpected benefit of volunteering is that the time I spend at the shop is almost like a therapy session for me. I do not think a minute about university work such as assessments and lectures, which is nice and very important.

I would definitely recommend that people who are interested in making a positive impact and willing to learn volunteer in the city. Who knows? An open-mind, respectful attitude and a genuine smile at a charity shop might go a long way and treat you to a little out of the ordinary but amazing encounters!

5 things you will experience from volunteering:

1. You learn useful skills from organisation to confidence that might be useful when searching and applying for part-time or full-time jobs. The running of a charity shop may seem simple but there are a lot going on behind the scenes, and it is eye-opening to be a part of this. It will also look great on your CV!

2. More social connections new friends. The fun part of making friends through volunteering is that each person is completely different such as in age and/or background. This means that we all have had completely unique experiences and getting to know them really broadens your views. Conversations you might have may be new and very enjoyable.

3. Time away from constant studying for your university work that can often lead to worrying or stressful period. A few hours per week to purely spend time giving back to the community and interacting with other volunteers can be much more fun than you might think.

4. You get to be a part of your local community. It can be a strange feeling and difficult if you move from a different place to another but through volunteering locally, you meet friendly locals who are happy to have a chat and get to recognise familiar faces afterwards.

5. A sense of accomplishment at the end of your shift. It may be indirect impact or direct depending on the type of volunteering you do, but you know you made a difference big or small to people who really need it. Knowing this, the feeling you will experience cannot be put into words.

Written by Leon Takabe, Japan