Amersham to zombies: A-Z of volunteering

Ghost

Charlotte Bray wonders whether there's a link between a creative use of your spare time and working for a charity

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18th August 2014 by Charlotte Bray 0 Comments

Someone recently forwarded me an article on the top ten weirdest volunteering roles. It was fun and I was admiring of the variety, but honestly, weirdest? As Rebecca Curtis, testified fresh from zombie training school in another recent TFN article, it didn’t even break the surface of the wealth of opportunities that are within the grasp of truly dedicated volunteers.

The article did, however, get me thinking. Working and volunteering in the charity sector I’ve met some of the nicest and most dedicated people in the world. They also have some of the most unusual hobbies I’ve ever heard of. So, is it nature or nurture? What draws voluntary sector workers towards the extraordinary? Is it because our jobs require some sense of adventure, imagination and creativity, or is it wired in from a much earlier age? 

Along with librarian, theatre attendant and flute teacher, one of my first work experiences was haunting a house in Amersham. At the time I was intending to pursue a career in special effects, so the opportunity to scare the willies out of people by acting the ghost in a Victorian play room really appealed to me. Hidden in a wall space, dressed in a mop cap and gown, playing recorded children’s laughter behind the china faced dolls and making the rocking horse move with invisible wire was actually pretty creepy. It was also pretty fun.

Amersham to zombies: A-Z of volunteering

I’m not sure how being able to create a snowy roof top in a shop window using boxes, packing foam and my dad’s old wellingtons has prepared me for, say, a posh fundraising dinner at Edinburgh’s New Club, but somewhere down the line it makes sense

Wind the clock forward to my first full-time paid job at Ottakars book store. Much opportunity for dressing up there too; Anne of Green Gables for World Book Day or Hedwig for Harry Potter launch night, for example. Add to this the fantastic art of creative display: no one can make a bucket and spade, pirate boat, or chandelier out of a bunch of book posters better than me.

Throughout my life the variety of experience continues. Litter picking in the Australian rainforest (likely to un-house some big scary spiders), helping bats learn to fly, planting trees and pulling things out of rivers are some of the most memorable of my volunteering days. On the face of it, these adventures may have little in common with, say, my role on the Institute of Fundraising policy advisory board. But look closer. There are similarities both in our paid and unpaid work. Are we drawn to mystery, drama, romance, imagination and the unexpected? Is it wired in? Or do we learn to love the alien?

I’d love to hear from some of you about your weirdest working or volunteering experiences. I know you’ll put me and even Rebecca Curtis, top zombie, to shame. Tweet, email, or comment and we can put together our own top ten.

Whatever the role and whatever the reason, it pays to expect the unexpected in this sector. Strategies change daily. The only certain thing is change. I’m not sure how being able to create a snowy roof top in a shop window using boxes, packing foam and my dad’s old wellingtons has prepared me for, say, a posh fundraising dinner at Edinburgh’s New Club, but somewhere down the line it makes sense. No experience is wasted.

Carpe diem. Which, in this case, might literally mean seize the carp. Or bat. Or spider.

Bring it on.