Want to be useful? It's official: doing good feels good. Scientists have shown that helping other people makes us happy. If a person, group or organisation helped you, you know what a difference they made to you. A lot of them were volunteers who cared enough to get involved. How about you?


Research suggests that people who volunteer for causes they care about tend to be happier and healthier, and even live longer. Two reasons to try to give something back - it does good, and it makes you feel good.

What can you do?

Volunteer and be useful

With all the spending cuts, voluntary groups and charities are finding it harder than ever to keep offering their services free of charge. Some of the helplines listed in GTRT have cut their hours and some of the services who were listed in the original GTRT leaflet and website have since closed down as they simply couldn't afford to keep going. So, if you have time on your hands, some of the people who helped you could maybe use your help in return.

It never hurts to be able to put volunteering on your CV when you look for work; as a volunteer you can learn things which add to your skills and experience too and very occasionally it can lead to a job offer from wherever you volunteered. It's also a boredom-buster if you are out of work, or can't fill your spare time.

If you look on the websites of organisations or charities you noticed or got help from, you will often find ways you can contribute - whether it's just posting comments or artwork, taking part in a forum where you can help each other, getting trained and manning the phones, or joining and helping run a local group. They all welcome financial donations, too, but we're assuming you've got no money and leaving that to the adults and business supporters. But, there may be sponsored events where you can help raise money for them, publicity events where you can get them noticed, and ways to attract the attention of people who might donate funds.

Starting with a disadvantage?

If you need help because of a disability of difficulty, you may still be able to volunteer and there are some supported volunteer schemes.

  • Get involved.
  • Got something to shout about?
  • Spread the word.

Some organisations have a small team of representatives or ambassadors who appear in the media or make official statements or presentations. It's a way for people like you to help take action and influence what might happen next in the political world and society generally, rather than having someone else decide what should happen and what is good for people like you.

Pass it on

You can get involved in many ways by passing on your experiences and what you have learnt about how to survive rough times. You can offer to be a buddy or mentor for someone else having a rough time.

If you've got special talents, try to find places where you can pass on your expertise and, if not, volunteer anyway. It's a way of saying thanks for the help they gave you, of making sure they are still there for the next person who needs help if you help with phonelines, e-mails and support groups. Did you read any of the personal stories or watch the videos on GTRT? If they encouraged you. Share your experiences and personal story - and especially lessons you learned and what helped you.

Examples of where and what

Other volunteering opportunities

If you can't find an opportunity to volunteer for an organisation who helped you, there are also local lists of places you can work voluntarily. If you have a skill it may be possible for you to teach it to other young people. There are lots of local good causes such as charity shops, and animal shelters are often short of volunteer staff. If you are at school or college they will know about some of these, and Connexions should be able to point you in the direction of some, too. The council should also have a list.

There are also cross-cultural exchanges where you may be able to go to another country or culture - not just to help but to encourage co-operation and understanding. Find out what Encompass does both abroad and in the UK, and how to become a volunteer.

But you don't have to sign away your life to charity. Doing good doesn't have to take much time, and you can even do it from the comfort of your computer. You can also do good with five minutes on your mobile phone with an app from Orange!

What's in your area?

Cambridge Volunteer Centre matches volunteers with opportunities. You can register online, call in or make an appointment.

The YMCA (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough) welcome volunteers for their local projects working with young people.

The page was last updated on 09 March 2018 by pcouch.

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