10th March 2021
Writing: Anish Vaddiraju (Year 12)
Editing: Rory Collins (Year 12)
Across the world, there are roughly 1 billion volunteers. Their hard work is estimated to be the same as just over 100 million full-time workers. John Studzinski, CBE and founder of the Genesis Foundation, is one of those billion. He has been helping people across the US and UK for years, spending time with the homeless and advocating against the rising youth unemployment rates.
Before the half-term break, some students got the chance to talk to John about his own experiences and how he goes about volunteering in his week. It was interesting to hear about how he puts aside time in his day to help out other people, even if it is only to sit down and have a chat with them.
While listening to him talk about his experiences, it's clear that he sincerely cares about helping others. He began volunteering at the age of six, working at a local soup kitchen in his free time. Later on in his life, John set up the Genesis Foundation, which supports people in the arts - be it music, theatre, visual art, or dance, the foundation supports them with practical and financial help. They give scholarships to respected institutes for the arts, such as the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA); funding a mentoring scheme for younger students at LAMDA to prepare them for the field, and so much more.
One of the things that struck us the most was how he believes that anyone can volunteer, no matter the maximum time or effort that they could put in. It was something that he stressed the most in his talk and something that resonated with me strongly. He spoke about how helping out wholeheartedly for half an hour is better than doing 10 hours of volunteering a week for the sake of it, where the only outcome is you ending up burnt out.
Another important thing is finding something that you are passionate about. If you do want to start volunteering, do something you care about, however trivial, because you will impact someone somewhere with your work. If possible, find something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Of everything John spoke about, one thing stood out the most, and it was his idea of the 'domino effect' of volunteering. He said that for every one thing you do for someone else, you learn five things about yourself. He suggested that by doing something that you might not have done before, you have a chance of learning new skills, but more importantly, learning more about yourself and what kind of a person you are.
In the Sixth Form, there is a strong emphasis on volunteering. It is part of the Challoner's Baccalaureate, which forms the basis of our Sixth Form experience. Pre-COVID, Year 12 students were required to do at least one hour of volunteering a week. This could be done through the school, at local primary schools or charities, or set up on your own at a local charity shop, for example. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this has not been possible in some cases, but it has been amazing to hear the work of some of our peers who have done volunteering at vaccination centres, care homes, and so many other locations. There are lots of places that need help, now more than ever. If you could take one thing from John's talk, I hope it was that volunteering is one of the most important things you can do, both to help yourself and countless others. After listening to John's talk, I would highly recommend setting aside an hour a week, if you can, to take a break from school and help the local community in any way you can, because however small it might seem to you, it might make someone else's day.
A huge thanks goes to John Studzinski for taking the time to speak to us and the teachers for setting this up - it was a genuinely eye-opening talk.