Voluntary work can be very rewarding and enjoyable. Helping others and doing something productive can be a good way to boost self-confidence and help you back into a working routine. It can also be a good way of trying out things you have never done before and finding out your strengths and weaknesses.
There is the possibility that voluntary work may lead to paid work eventually, but even those who won’t be able to return to employment can still benefit from volunteering.
We’ve put together a list of top tips for volunteering after a brain injury:
Voluntary work should be fun and something you look forward to doing. Think about what your interests are and look for volunteering opportunities in that area. For example, volunteering at a community garden if you enjoy gardening or an animal re-homing shelter if you want to help animals.
It’s important to remember that volunteering is optional and you should not feel obliged to work more hours than you feel comfortable doing. Consider whether you’d like regular hours, for example ten hours a week at a charity shop, which can be good for building a sense of routing, or more flexible hours that you can fit around other commitments and any effects of your brain injury that may present challenges, such as fatigue.
Organisations should try to accommodate any specific needs you have within the work environment, but consider what side-effects you experience and if any of these would make volunteering difficult. For example, if you are sensitive to noise try to avoid volunteering at places where you will be exposed to a noisy environment.
There are many ways to seek out volunteering opportunities, including a number of online databases:
Furthermore, your local Citizens Advice can give information about volunteering services or opportunities in your local area. Your local Jobcentre might also be able to offer advice on volunteering and may have a Disability Employment Advisor who can advise on volunteering after brain injury.
Despite being unpaid, many volunteering opportunities will still require an application to be submitted. You may need to send in a copy of your CV and references to show you are a suitable candidate for the role.
If you need help with writing a CV or filling out an application form consider asking a friend or a family member. Your local Headway group or branch may also be able to offer some assistance.
Once you begin volunteering make sure to speak with your employer about any worries or concerns, or if you’re finding the work too challenging, or even not challenging enough!
It’s up to you how open you are about your brain injury and the effects this has on you with employers and colleagues. But most organisations will be want to support you in the best way they can and are likely to be flexible to accommodate your needs. After all, you’re donating your time to help them!
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your employer, as this can be useful if you’re considering applying for jobs in the future.
Remember that you can often reclaim money that you have spent on things such as food and travel when volunteering. Speak with your employer about reclaiming expenses to ensure you’re not left out-of-pocket.
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