By Swetlana Khoo

For Youth Week, 8-14 May, we’re publishing blogs by members of the Volunteering New Zealand Youth Working Group.

Youth are changemakers, people who, for the most part, are not afraid to voice out their opinions and strive for social justice. Often, they are driven by passion and their desire to see a better future. However, when it comes to engaging youth and asking for a commitment of volunteering, things become rather difficult – but are youth really to blame here? Given the increasing stress from school, work, societal standards, trying to fit some personal time into our busy lives and more, there  may be little time to help others. 

I have narrowed down some possible limitations  to youth participating in community service: 

  1. lack of motivation among youth or the fact that the cause being supported is not of interest to them; 
  2. lack of resources e.g. time constraints, transport, costs and more. 
  3. Volunteering can be daunting to youth, especially for those who are just starting to immerse themselves in community service – with little to no experience and while juggling work/school, meeting new people and adapting to new environments. 

Breaking the barriers

So what can be done to break down these barriers? Currently, there are many  opportunities that should  allow everyone to find a cause that they want to support and most certainly ‘play to their strengths’. The increasing accessibility of opportunities through websites, social media and more provides more choice , and more convenience  i.e. they can find opportunities close to them or, volunteer remotely. People (not just youth!) are also constantly reminded that no matter how much time or effort they put in, their efforts will have a positive impact on someone’s life and that the resources they can offer will definitely be welcomed. Perhaps the only thing that stands in the way are young people themselves and whether or not we see what we are truly able to do; maybe it’s a matter of finding what we truly love and watching as our actions positively impact society. 

Personally, I would not have known of volunteering if it were not a school requirement. At the start, it seemed like another tedious task on top of already existing commitments, but I soon came to realise that being a part of my community not only benefited those I helped but also myself. I was able to form connections with people and learn more about their passions. I was surrounded by people who had a certain type of energy that inspired me to further immerse myself in a variety of volunteering opportunities so that I could develop my own attributes. Volunteering played a significant role in my character development and shaping who I am, and who I want to be as a person. 

Take a leap of faith 

If you are on the fence about volunteering for the first time, meeting new people and being assigned a role that you have limited experience in, trust me when I say that you should definitely take a leap of faith and go for it! Who knows? A passion or two might be uncovered, friendships may be formed and you will be making the world a better place with your actions. 

To conclude, while youth are juggling everyday life and trying to find what they are passionate about, organisations and society should remember that when they have a young person on board, their voices should be heard and valued as they are a significant part of society; there  are many ways in which youth can express their own opinions as they have the ability to change the world.