How volunteering boosted my mental wellbeing: Carl’s story (age 14)

Volunteering as part of my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) last summer was something I never knew I needed. In June, far into the six-month lockdown, things were getting very repetitive and uninteresting. The constant update in COVID cases didn’t scare me any more and, with schoolwork having to be moved online and initially completing my volunteering on a charity site, I was very drained from having to be indoors for so long. While the volunteering was for a good cause, it didn’t feel like it affected anything around me.

I believe changing my volunteering to helping out at the #HelpNewham hubs, which were set up by Newham Council to support vulnerable residents, was a great choice. It was a nice way to give back to the community I live in and help those who need it. The part I played involved preparing packages with basic necessities (cereal, soap, tissues etc).

The process itself was quite relaxing and gave me a few hours a week to forget about any uncertainty around how my exams would work out. This downtime, along with the weekly jog for the Physical section of my DofE, helped boost my mood and make me feel far more motivated than if I stuck with the online charity work. It also worked as a huge wake-up call, letting me know that the pandemic has indeed affected people around me.

Another aspect of volunteering that helped boost my wellbeing were the people there. One of the biggest letdowns of lockdown was not being able to see friends for six months but going to the hub in Stratford allowed me to find new people who were my age and in similar positions to myself also working towards achieving their DofE Award. It made me feel more comfortable that I wasn’t the only one having to deal with the lockdown. The adults who were helping out at the hubs were also very friendly, showing us the ropes and even letting us lead some of the shifts.

Volunteering at the hub was an amazing experience, which let me know that I am not alone in this pandemic and people around me are also having to cope with it. I would gladly do something like this again.

Good Thinking would like to thank Carl, Newham Council and the DofE Award for this blog.

Useful Good Thinking resources

Five ways to good mental wellbeing (article)

Make positive changes where you live (podcast)

Resources for young people

The kindness of neighbours (blog)