Volunteering in new media
21 year-old Alix Walls started volunteering three years ago. He signed up as a Millennium Volunteer (MV) and soon moved on to a role as Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator using new media technologies like blogs, vlogs and podcasts. He explains how it helped lift him out of depression and gain self confidence.
Reasons for getting started
I remember seeing how much my sister got from volunteering and eventually she convinced me to go along too. Although I didn't want to admit it at the time, I had low self-esteem following a period of clinical depression at high school, so I think I knew that it would be a good opportunity to meet people and gain an interest in something.
At first I was interested in becoming a football coach and I did this for about a year. By the end I'd started to slip back into a depressive state. I'd dropped out of university and realised I knew nothing of my own self-identity. I was completely unsure where I was going, in any area of my life.
It wasn't long before I won the West Midlands MV of the Year 2004 Sports Category, as well as the Year of the Volunteer 2005 Medal for Impact and this gave me a real boost. It's often said that you only find what you're looking for when you're not looking, and I guess that's exactly what happened to me.
It's often said that you only find what you're looking for when you're not looking, and I guess that's exactly what happened to me.
Getting into new media
I got a job as the co-ordinator for an e-mentoring project called the Stream and soon I was finding out about using ICT in volunteering. I used new media to promote the Stream, with blogs, social networking and podcasts. Outside of work, I was already using these technologies in my social life. I blogged about my personal life and my music to vent my frustration and I also kept a profile on MySpace and Facebook.
After moving to my current position as Volunteer Recruitment Co-ordinator at Pershore Volunteer Centre earlier this year, things really began to happen for me. Perhaps the biggest opportunity I took was becoming the chairman of gengeHub, an organisation aiming to give young people a voice through new media. Currently we have a blog, several podcasts, and a wiki to communicate outside of meetings. I also joined its 'big cheese' steering group, and was asked to set up a wiki to help us communicate outside of our weekly meetings. The wiki is becoming increasingly important, with more of the group's functions being carried out on it, including the recent election of a new chairperson.
I also recently began to make vlogs for Charge TV. These are a couple of minutes long, recorded on my mobile phone and are shown on the Community Channel. So far I've told my volunteering story, filmed an environment song, and talked about the EU Reform Treaty.
A lot to gain
I've gained so much from volunteering: recognition; a very full CV; confidence; friends; and experiences, to list just a few. The computer-based volunteering I've done has really given me an opportunity to make myself heard. Talking about the EU Reform Treaty was one of the best moments. Knowing I was sharing my knowledge and opinions on policy governing Europe felt amazing - if only its impact could be measured. It's probably a cliché to say that volunteering changed my life, but for me it just keeps getting better.
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