The Wonder Foundation is a woman-led charity dedicated to empowering women and girls through quality education and access to good work, and the LSE Volunteer Centre has been working closely with them for a number of years. Maddy, a third year studying BA Social Anthropology, has been volunteering with the Wonder Foundation for over a year and has written a reflective piece about her experience.
Before coming to Wonder I knew I wanted to ‘help’ people, but I didn’t quite know how. Having volunteered as a mentor and teacher in various circumstances, I realised I didn’t know enough about how charities actually perform the work they do. I applied to Wonder hoping to learn the skills I would need to turn a desire to help others into a practical ambition and career.
Since joining the organisation, I have been rewarded with the opportunity to learn all the inner workings of a small charity, as well as being surrounded by a fantastic team of passionate individuals and contributing to a charity whose goals and ethos I really believe in.
I have learnt far more than if I had decided to intern at a larger organisation. As part of a small team, I was expected to work independently and take initiative, and this helped me to develop my confidence and my skills. I have also learnt to be flexible, performing tasks outside my usual role and responding to unexpected circumstances. The best example of this was when I received urgent messages from Olivia at 9 o’clock in the morning, asking when I would be in the office as a report for a project I had not been working on needed proofreading, referencing and submitting by the end of the day. After spending a whole day working through these references, four of us stayed in the office frantically working to submit this report, only selecting the right type of paper for printing minutes before the 6.30pm deadline. Being a part of this slightly stressful process was something I really valued; I was given responsibility in an important process and learnt about a side of charity work that you don’t often get to see.
My usual role was to disseminate the work from the FATIMA Project, a programme providing language and civic education for migrant women in four different countries. Previously social media-inept, I learnt how to run a Twitter account and produce interesting blogs to be posted on the Wonder website, updating the public and donors on the progress of the project. I communicated directly with the partner organisations and was able to see first-hand the amazing work they were doing as they sent photos, testimonies and activity updates from their sessions, which was highly rewarding. I also became familiar with the more mundane aspects of charity work, filing and refiling in SharePoint – a reminder that it’s not all glamorous but still worthwhile. I was also involved in putting together the final report, consolidating and analysing all of the data we had collected over the year. This gave me a great insight into how a project is successfully executed from beginning to end, and also gave me an insight into the experience of integration for migrants in each of the countries where the project ran.
Although I was focused on one project, the benefit of being in such a small office was that I was surrounded by the work of other projects and departments; I was still able to learn about marketing and fundraising just by hearing their discussions and decision making. I also took part in a number of other events and workshops which I otherwise wouldn’t have had access to, including a marketing workshop run by a Unilever employee who shared how to best share the work of your charity with the public and encourage donations. I also volunteered at the launch of the SEE:ME youth campaign in Parliament, where I saw the charity’s work in action as they informed the public, as well as MPs and MEPs, about modern slavery and how we can end it.
Throughout my time at Wonder I felt supported, and they were keen to allow me to develop skills which would help me succeed in the future. Olivia helped me to develop my CV both in terms of experiences and skills to add and presenting my achievements to employers in a way that would make me a desirable candidate.
In my time at Wonder I learnt how to be part of a charity with a really strong and well-informed ethos; reading Wonder’s theory of change and then seeing it put into action through such a huge rage of well-executed projects was inspiring and educative. Overall, I learnt that this is the sector that I want to continue my career in, and I feel that I have the skills and the experiences to help me on my way.
If we’ve inspired you to volunteer, check out one of our other 200+ ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. If you are short on time, then take a look at the one-off opportunities that will return for Michaelmas Term 2019, organised by the LSE Volunteer Centre. And why not follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.