At the start, I think many of us believed lockdown would be like a two-week holiday; no school, less responsibility, and a time to gather ourselves and spend time with family. However, throughout the months of lockdown, young people across the country came together to help their communities; they summoned courage, and took the time and responsibility to help their neighbours through a difficult time.
After the second lockdown, the Jack Petchey Foundation, who have been supporting young people since 1999, conducted the Shaping Our Future survey. Out of the 6000+ responses, almost half of people said they wanted to see more volunteering opportunities, and 65% wanted to see more kindness and community spirit in a post-COVID society.
The survey showed that 56% of young people took positive action for their community’s benefit, such as eight per cent volunteering with local youth groups, seven per cent spending time helping a national charity and six per cent of young people helping deliver food and aid parcels in their area.
Volunteering and mental health go hand in hand
At the start of lockdown, there were many times that I felt as though I had nothing to do. I couldn’t meet friends at school or outside and the pressure of homework had been taken off me. As much as I could spend time trying out yoga, baking or listening to music, I felt as though I needed to be more productive. After a few weeks, I began to help my neighbour with gardening in our community and later went on to growing vegetables and flowers in our campus garden. Not only did I learn how to grow beans and tomatoes, but being outside in the fresh air and meeting a few new people really helped boost my wellbeing.
I had something to look forward to every few days, and looking at the growth of the plants until they could be eaten made me feel as though I had completed a mission. It is the small things that count: making friends with people around you and seeing your hard work pay off.
What you get out of it
During such uncertain times, you never expect the next rule or regulation. Who knows when we will go back to normal? However, we may never get this opportunity to learn new skills and find a new passion again. Whether it’s volunteering with a sports club in your area or speaking on the phone to someone who is isolated, you benefit yourself as well as others.
Volunteering: how to get involved
There are various ways you can volunteer throughout society. Prior to lockdown, I held sessions on Saturday mornings at the library, reading and doing arts and crafts with small children. Local libraries, charity shops, community gardens, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and so much more are full of opportunities for people to help out.
Many charities and organisations love to welcome young volunteers for a new outlook and different ideas to support projects and the people of the neighbourhood. Volunteering doesn’t always have to be far away; it’s about helping other people by spending your time sharing your knowledge and skills – and gaining new knowledge and skills in the process. If you are unable to go far from home during this time, why not devote some of your time to teaching siblings or helping out your close friends and family? You can even come up with new ideas to fundraise for a local charity of your choice.
Remember, you don’t need to put pressure on yourself to have a ‘productive’ lockdown. But I’ve found volunteering has really helped me try and make the most of the situation, and discover new abilities and experiences.
Where to get help
If you are struggling with your mental health, you're not alone. For tips, advice and information on where you can get support with whatever you're going through, have a look at our find help page.