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Volunteering: gaining as much as giving

1 June 2020
By Kerry Dyus
PET Trustee
Appeared in BioNews 1049

Motivations for volunteering are as diverse as the volunteers themselves. I started volunteering at the Progress Educational Trust (PET) in 2010 simply because the office was a five minute walk away! Since then, however, my experience has been so positive and I have gained so much (personally as much as professionally) that I'm still actively involved with the charity ten years later.

In 2009, I was made redundant after many enjoyable decades working in the advertising/marketing industry. Satisfying as my career had been, I knew I wanted to do something different but was unsure what. To stave off boredom while I pondered what to do next, I googled volunteering opportunities and saw an advertisement for a marketing and public relations assistant at PET. Because the office was so close, I felt I had nothing to lose by applying.

When I met Sarah (Norcross, Director of PET), she reassured me that I could help market their new websites even though I had no prior interest in genetics or fertility. PET's mission to inform the debate on these topics resonated with me, so I agreed to start volunteering at the PET office for two days a week and then to see how it went. I stayed for two years.

It didn't turn out to be the stopgap I thought I wanted because I was gaining more than the skills and experience I was giving - that's all down to Sarah and Sandy, who were always generous with their time and who made me feel valued by frequently articulating how my work was benefiting the charity.

The first lesson I learned was how much can be achieved with zero budget. PET is a well-run and lean charity and their limited resources are carefully managed. Throughout my two years, I also benefitted from being encouraged to try new things to help the charity, meeting a range of people who I wouldn't otherwise have had the pleasure to meet, and generally appreciating the value of working in the not-for-profit sector. So much so that in 2012, I decided to pursue a career in marketing for other charities. Thankfully, it wasn't the end of my association with PET; I was immensely proud that when I left Sarah asked me to sit on PET's Advisory Committee and subsequently, in 2018, to join the Board of Trustees.

I can't finish without mentioning a few of the great memories I've gained from the last ten years: teasing (and being teased in return by) fellow volunteer Daniel (Malynn) who, when he started at PET, was a shy, quiet man with a penchant for Skittles; Sarah and Sandy's love for a pun; how cold the PET office is, even in summer; volunteering at my first PET event and feeling proud at how professional it was; the lively office debates on various topical issues; Sandy's laugh and sideburns and Sarah's calm demeanour hiding a wicked sense of humour.

Volunteering at PET has given me so much more than I ever anticipated - not just new skills and memories, some of which I've shared above, but also even more fundamental benefits that have changed my life for good: an appetite for volunteering, unforgettable experiences, which include volunteering at the 2012 London Olympics, the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and other charities' events, helping me build a new career in the not-for profit-sector, and, most important of all, lasting friendships.


Every day this week, to mark Volunteers' Week, PET will be publishing a video in which our longstanding volunteer Daniel Malynn discusses a different aspect of his experience volunteering with us.

The first video can be seen below. Follow us on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see more videos throughout the week.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
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