Volunteering is a great way to improve yourself. There are organisations everywhere, across a whole range of sectors and specialisms that need volunteers, so it’s also an easy way to get work experience. Although some people don’t think of volunteering as being work experience, it could be the difference between getting and not getting a job. One of the reasons I got my job now is because I did unpaid work experience while I was unemployed. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and those people could be the ones who teach you valuable, new skills or even hire you for paid work. If you have some spare time (or a lot of spare time), I would highly recommend volunteering. Not only do you get a sense of accomplishment, but you can also learn important new skills and get the satisfaction of helping others.
Since I joined in 2011, the society’s reputation has got better and better, and every year’s show is bigger and more impressive than the last; but perhaps the most impressive thing about the society is its members. Everyone involved with the society works as a volunteer, and believe me it’s a lot of work! It’s not just about the actors attending rehearsals and learning lines; we have choreographers, professional music teachers and singing coaches who all volunteer their time to help us put on a truly amazing show and all the sets, scenery, props and costumes are either created or provided by volunteers. Our costumes in particular, are so well made, you would never believe that our costume department is two or three amazing women who furiously sew at all hours of the day and night through the winter to make at least one costume per cast member! The best part is: it’s all done for charity.
Last year, West Wickham Pantomime Society celebrated their 70th year and cast me as their very first Peter Pan – this was one of my biggest ambitions and greatest achievements. The reactions to our show were incredible; we had a fantastic review from the National Operatic & Dramatic Association (NODA) and people couldn’t believe the quality of the performance considering how cheap the tickets were! We completely sold out, a first for WWPS, and were able to donate over £2,000 to various local and international charities. Two nights during the run were reserved as charity nights, where designated charities could sell tickets for our show and take half the profits for their organisation – another way to make a difference.
The reason I joined was because I love to act and wanted to be a part of an amateur group, local to me. The reason I stayed is quite different.
I could join any number of amateur dramatics groups, but what makes the West Wickham Pantomime Society the best in my eyes is the members. Each member is incredible and has their own story to tell. Some members are extremely busy professionals, some have important duties to uphold and some are children still in school and teenagers in the midst of GCSEs and A-Levels! Despite the demands of life, all WWPS members band together and make time to entertain and raise money for worthy causes, and it’s this common ground that unites us all, regardless of our backgrounds and differences. We call the members of the society “Panto Family” and the support you receive from each individual is boundless, making learning new skills a simple process. It’s a really happy place to be and the fact that we do it all for charity makes it even happier.
Despite my love of acting, I was very shy when I first joined and struggled to be myself and perform to my best ability. In my first show, I was cast as one half of the comedy duo, and my partner in crime was none other than the Chairman of the Society, an absolute genius in the world of Pantomime. Working with him, plus the support of the society helped me leave my inhibitions behind and boost my confidence – now I’m considered one of the loudest, most outgoing members at the society and I pay my dues by supporting new members in exactly the same way.
Another great skill I learned was how to communicate effectively with others. I’ve learned how to work with a big group of people to pull a huge show together in only four months, you learn to listen a lot better! It’s all about making the show great, so it was a great platform for me to share ideas and learn more about pantomimes through the expertise of other members. Aside from that, just being able to have conversations with different people who share the same interests as you is really inspiring; I’ve learned a lot just by chatting to people!
Anyone can be a volunteer, for an hour, a day or whole weeks at a time. It is a great way to find out more about working in different industries and can give you a real insight into the world of work. The National Careers Service website has a lot of information on volunteering and the Advisers can give you more information on where to look for opportunities and how volunteering will benefit you. You can read more about volunteering here:
As a final note, I want to thank West Wickham Pantomime Society for everything they’ve done for me since 2011. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the opportunities they have given me. Being a volunteer has most definitely enriched my life, helped me become a better person and prepared me for a lot of challenges.
To all who are reading this, become a volunteer. You won’t regret it!
West Wickham Pantomime Society