Learning new skills - as a volunteer

Learning new skills

Retiring from work does not mean retiring from life! You are never too late to be learning new skills. I had been a teacher all my working life and, although ready to leave that behind, I wanted new challenges and to continue to learn.

So many people have the notion that retirement is a time to give up but with so many of the older population living longer, healthier lives, it is just another stage in life but one where you can be in control of what you want to do.


Volunteering challenges

I had always been very active in the community as a volunteer, and along the way I have been learning new skills. For 12 years I was the secretary to our local Amenity Association, which presented a whole range of new challenges the least of which was learning how to produce a good set of minutes! 

From there I became involved with the development of a new community magazine and, for four years I worked as the magazine co-ordinator, searching for and gathering together articles, liaising with the editor, designer and printer. I was learning new skills in how to proof read and then assisted with the distribution of 3,500 copies to the whole local community.

My new career as a fund finder

My next challenge came along through our local Community Centre, which desperately needs a large refurbishment. The Management Committee had talked about this for several years but no one felt able enough to take it forward. I, along with a small group of volunteers, decided to try to get things moving and this resulted in a whole new career as a “Fund Finder”.

We were lucky to obtain a large grant from the local council, which was a great start but then came the task to find £60,000 from charitable funders. Naivety soon flew out of the window and I was certainly learning new skills fast when, what seemed like a fairly straightforward process, turned into almost a full time job.

The application process

Working with Charitable Trusts was a huge learning curve through which I have met and worked with so many interesting people. One could expect that all Charitable Trusts are reasonably standard in their application processes. Not so!

The variety and complexity of information required stretched my limited skills further than I would ever have imagined. From working with architects, Quantity Surveyors, Council Departments, accountants and the funders themselves I had a very quick introduction to the world of fund finding.

It can be extremely frustrating and one has to be prepared for many knock backs but even managing to get small grants leaves one feeling as though all has been worthwhile.

Perseverance is the name of the game when working in this area. I’m glad to say that this has resulted in success and we hope, shortly, to begin work on the centre to make it more relevant to the needs of the community today.

The next challenge?

I’m not, sure but it will present itself any day and provide another opportunity to develop skills and interests and make retirement so worthwhile.

The volunteer sector is always looking for new “recruits”. One doesn't have to be pigeonholed into one sector. Work on a project that interests you and then it is possible to move to a new area, learning new skills and developing new interests. The only restriction is you.

Sharon Gray, Edinburgh

If you enjoyed learning new skills you might like to link to Volunteer Scotland.

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