Why volunteer for charity? WaterAid volunteers tell all

4 min read
Image: WaterAid/Ben Roberts

WaterAid’s mission is a big one: we want to reach everyone, everywhere with clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene within a generation. Such a mission requires a lot of people full of energy, passion and determination. Luckily we have just that, and our volunteers are no exception.

They do invaluable work around the year: giving engaging talks, cleaning toilets at festivals, raising awareness in their universities, cheering runners on at marathons – the list goes on.

Ahead of Volunteers' Week (1 to 7 June) three of our most dedicated WaterAiders share their experiences of volunteering with us.

What first inspired you to volunteer with WaterAid?

Frank: Before I retired I worked for Yorkshire Water, a partner of WaterAid’s. I visited Malawi to see the work being done and it had a profound effect on me, so I decided to use my skills as a water engineer to support WaterAid’s work.

Yani: I’m interested in NGO work in general, but also learning about WaterAid’s work made me realise how critical clean water is for having access to an education, as well as gender equality.

Geoff: I already had a monthly donation set up to WaterAid, but after I retired I began giving talks to groups, churches and schools. It gives me a real sense of worth, helping to change the lives of those less fortunate than myself.

Have you ever had an experience yourself where you haven’t had immediate access to water or a toilet?

Frank: As a keen walker there are times when you’re miles away from a toilet and may have to disappear behind a wall, trees or bushes to go to the toilet. It makes you feel really undignified, and shows you how important good sanitation is.

Yani: I’ve spent weeks in Eastern Europe in the heat of summer when water supplies have suddenly been cut, and it put a stop to my plans for the day. It made the fact that there are 844 million people in the world without clean water close to home all the more shocking.

Geoff: I was once walking the Scottish Coast to Coast and, on a day where I had to cover 26 miles, ran out of water halfway through. I became really dehydrated and the last few miles were incredibly tough. It really brought home just much we take these basics for granted in our daily lives.

What’s your best memory of volunteering?

Frank: Glastonbury is my favourite festival I’ve been to with WaterAid. I first went in 2004, when there was only 100 volunteers and just one water stand. Since then, I’ve watched the team swell to over 500 people, with new offerings like the Loo Crew, ShePees and Recyclers!

Yani: For me, it was organising students to take part in a climate change protest. There’s a huge overlap between environmental issues and the availability of water, so all of our posters for the march focussed on water, sanitation and hygiene. It was my first experience of activism.

Geoff: I once had the pleasure of receiving a cheque on behalf of WaterAid for £1050, from a Lions club after a presentation I gave.

I also really enjoy giving talks to children – they’re usually so fired up and keen to help with WaterAid’s work. I aim to send children home with three facts firmly embedded. Recently I ran into some boys that had heard my talk earlier in the week, and they very proudly repeated those three facts back to me.

Why do you think volunteering is important?

Frank: You get to utilise your skills and enthusiasm to support the work of charities, saving them valuable funds that can be focused on the goal of the organisation. You also get to work towards a common cause with like-minded people, make new friends and help others who are less fortunate to improve their lives.

Yani: Volunteering is so important in building a healthy and progressive community. It’s a great way to push for political and social change when governments are not doing their part. It also allows you to reach and help people across the globe, and that’s incredible.

I would encourage students in particular to volunteer – they’re the future policy makers, after all. It’s a great way to build understanding of issues you care about, the way they’re currently being tackled, and hopefully spark solutions that can lead us forward.

If you’re interested in joining WaterAid as part of our dedicated team of volunteers, we’d love to hear from you. Take a look at all of our current volunteering opportunities, and register to hear about upcoming opportunities.