‘If you want to improve your confidence and get an understanding of the world of work, volunteering is a great place to start.’
The words of 27-year-old Abigail Hill, Volunteer Development Officer with cancer support charity Tenovus Cancer Care, who graduated from the University of South Wales (USW) in 2017 with a degree in Events Management - and who is keen to see others follow in her footsteps.
Abby’s journey to her current role started when she was still a child, after discovering she had an ambition to help other people.
“I think I first thought I wanted to work for a charity when I was quite young, not sure what age really,“ she said.
“I’ve always had this ambition to want to help and support people, so it was natural for me to want to do this kind of work.”
Having completed her A-levels and progressed to USW, as part of her course Abby had to undertake an internship – which she did at Kidney Wales – which enabled her to add to her experience in, and knowledge of, the charity sector.
Abby also organised a special fundraising event during her time at USW.
“During my second year at uni I had to organise and manage an event, so we did a Zumbathon to raise money for Velindre. This involved a non-stop two-hour dance, the lighting, the raffle, all the planning – all of that, along with the managing the budget, was a great experience.”
Despite having these experience of working for charities, Abby was unable to secure her ideal role after graduating, so decided to take up a job in the hospitality sector, working in hotels as a weddings and events co-ordinator.
Always on the pursuit of her perfect job, however, she finally secured a post at Tenovus Cancer Care last May.
“There’s a great deal of variety in what I do and there’s always plenty or organise,” Abby said.
“One day I could be doing shop applications, and then creating new volunteer roles, or then it could be liaising with colleges, universities, to promote our current volunteering openings, and then create new ones for students.
“I could then be looking at different companies or businesses to try to get other volunteering opportunities organised, which could involve team building events, or working in a warehouse. There’s so much to do as there’s so many opportunities for people to take on.
“I also run a tele-friends project service, which is a befriending telephone service for anyone affected by cancer – either those who are affected by cancer or their family or carers - to have a weekly chat. I interview volunteers, make sure they have a DBS check, organise and check their references, and train them. From this I get an understanding of both the service users and the volunteers, so adds an extra understanding to my role.
“Now I've come back to charities from the hospitality industry, I do think this is where I belong really.”
Having volunteered herself during her time at USW, and having used that experience to help secure a dream role, what advice does Abby have for others who are thinking of volunteering whilst at uni.
“There is so much you can learn and pick up as a volunteer that you probably wouldn’t get as part of your uni course,” Abby said.
“You can improve on your current skills and gain new skills, and it can really help you build confidence in yourself.
“While it’s great to have a degree, employers are also looking for something a little bit extra. Having a charity volunteer on your CV can make you stand out a bit more.
“Volunteering also opens you up to a wider community, so you get to know more people around you and get to know different social groups that you probably wouldn't connect within day-to-day life, and it gives you that sense that you've done something for somebody else.
“For me, it’s also knowing that I’ve given something back to people – when I shut my laptop at the end of work, I know that I have done good during my working day."