Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate your suitability for medicine. You can have a real positive impact in your local community and it's great for your mental wellbeing too!
Where can I volunteer?
Community action groups
Have a look at your local Brownies and Scout groups. Local packs are often in great need of young volunteers and you will have a great opportunity to get stuck in working with young people with lots of opportunities to take on leadership roles and responsibilities.
St John Ambulance also run cadet programmes for 10-17 year olds. Cadets are taught earn life-saving first aid and volunteer at community events. They may get involved in social action projects, become Peer Educators delivering first aid training to others and take part in Cadet leadership courses (great preparation for any career in a health care profession)
There's no harm in contacting a variety of places when looking for volunteering opportunities. Organisations are often very busy and email enquiries can very easily go unanswered. Don't get disheartened if you don't get any replies immediately, stick at it and be open minded to a wide range of roles and responsibilities.
Keep a record of your experiences
Keep a diary of your experiences and be sure to note down what your experiences have taught you. What skills have you developed? What challenges have you faced? How did you overcome these? Keeping a record as you go along will make it much easier to reflect upon your experiences when it comes to writing your personal statement and preparing for interviews.
Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone
It's important that you get the most out of your volunteering opportunity. Being punctual, committed and organised will demonstrate to others that you are capable of taking on greater roles and responsibilities.
Don't shy away from putting yourself forward for roles and events. If you show enthusiasm and willing, you will get a lot more out of your volunteering placement and have a greater, positive impact in the communities you serve.
Grasp every opportunity you can to develop your skills and attributes. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. You should never feel uncomfortable or out of your depth in your role but it's good to feel challenged and test your abilities in new environments.
It you're struggling and need to speak to somebody about your concerns, don't be afraid to approach your supervisor or volunteer co-ordinator. It's important that organisations get honest feedback from their young volunteers to best help develop their youth programmes and improve the experience for all young people. Your main concern is helping others but it's important to consider your own health and wellbeing too. Volunteering can at times be upsetting, stressful and daunting and that's entirely normal. You shouldn't be ashamed of feeling this way and sharing your experiences with friends and family will help you to explore these feelings in a positive way.