I began volunteering with The Rainbow Project in June 2015. I can’t say exactly what it was that made me decide to send an email but I am so glad I did. After a swift, fun and very interesting interview I was invited to become part of the Outreach Team as a Supervisor.
From the first meeting I had with the team I knew these were my people. I was welcomed warmly by all and I can honestly say I have never been so completely comfortable in a new environment before. There was plenty of training and I was guided by more experienced volunteers on my first trips. I never felt overwhelmed or unsupported.
Speaking to strangers about condoms, sexual health and lubricant is not exactly the easiest conversation to have initially but honestly once you put the lifelong societal conditioning that “sex is shameful” out of your head its simple! Sex is fun, sex is natural and as long as we are all safe and consenting, sex harms no one! Spreading that message has been personally enlightening and emboldening. In Northern Ireland we are told so often that we are “bad”, “sinful” or “wrong”…. To be able to have candid conversations about sex, health and choice and see others really benefit from a positive attitude was wonderful.
Volunteering has not only benefited me personally but professionally as well. Since volunteering with The Rainbow Project I have been able to secure a much better and well paid job. The skills I developed as a Supervisor not only helped me succeed in a very challenging and competitive assessment centre but they benefit me daily. I learned objectivity, time and people management and communications skills. I have developed the ability to see the big picture and plan for the future. I am capable of delegating tasks and having challenging conversations. These are all skills which were developed and honed through volunteering.
My advice to anyone considering it is give it a go! Start off small, contact one of The Rainbow Project’s lovely staff or come along to a recruitment event. Volunteering will grow you in ways you can’t imagine. At the very least you will make friends and sometimes they give you free pizza!