Ryan Hooper-Smith, VNZ co-opted youth board member, shares his experiences of volunteering. He encourages us to integrate volunteering into our everyday lives, as small acts of kindness can create big impact!

“As a young person today, myself and many others are exposed to significantly more news, information and current events than generations before us. We’re constantly a click away from some sort of update about local, national or international news that has an opportunity to affect our day-to-day lives.

It’s a scary reality when you look at it like that, but in retrospect, we’re actually exposed to a lot more of people’s heart-warming stories, their personal struggles and their desire for a better, more loving world. These are things that pull on the heart strings and make you feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside – and when more and more young people are being exposed to it, it grows a caring generation of empaths. With volunteering being the industry of empathy, it’s so essential that we have these young people involved early on so that we can plant those seeds and see lifetime volunteers more prevalent in our society.

Youth and volunteering: Don’t be afraid to jump in!

During my time that I’ve been volunteering, it’s not only been an amazing opportunity to see and learn a lot more about people from different walks of life, but to also take a step back from everything else around you. Often you feel so wrapped up in your own world that it can be really refreshing to get to do things like spending time helping children with their homework, or helping out a cause close to your heart by delivering some pamphlets on a sunny day. It’s these small things that we often don’t realise are “volunteering” but still makes a big impact in the whole scheme of things.

Young people like myself shouldn’t be afraid to jump in and do that volunteering, even if it is just for a few hours a week. We all have busy lives, but when you think about how if you took away a little bit of your spare time and gave it to a cause helping your local community or even those in need, you start to see the possibility of the impact you could be having and the difference you could make to a small, but important group of people.

Integrate volunteering into your everyday life

In a country with nearly 5 million great New Zealanders, not only is volunteering key to the people you’re helping, but it’s also key to learning about who you are and where your future could take you.

For those students going to university, or even those who are going straight into work, it can make a big impact on your life. By adding a couple of hours a week volunteering, you not only expand your job prospects, but you open yourself up to a whole new world – one where the learnings you take away are vastly different to those you get from a lecture or classroom setting. They are lessons on life, lessons on the world and lessons from people who are usually outside your normal social sphere. It’s so important that all of us, young and old, integrate volunteering into our everyday lives. I’ve found it to be such a vital part of who we are as New Zealanders – and I’m sure it’ll stay like that for years to come.”

Ryan Hooper-Smith
VNZ youth board member

Ryan is a first-year university student studying Commerce and part-time at Trade Me. He has a background in school-based and community volunteering, alongside mental health advocacy.