Volunteering is a great way to do new things and gain important working skills, but you’re not a slave! You’re not obligated to be there all the time, just when you can. It might be hard work but it should also be rewarding.
If you feel like the organisation is putting too much pressure on you, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by volunteering on top of your school work, let the them know. It’s important that you feel comfortable in the environment you’re in, as you would in a paid job.
Just because you’re not being paid, doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. Go Volunteer provides a long list of your rights as a volunteer, and Volunteering Australia has published the National Standards for involving volunteers in not for profit organisations. However, there are a few basic ones that you should know before and when you start volunteering.
All volunteers have the right:
1. To work in a safe and healthy environment
The organisation you’re with should be and feel safe and secure. Your employer or co-workers cannot make you do anything that makes you feel physically or personally uncomfortable.
2. To have agreed working hours
You and your employer should agree on hours that you are comfortable with. You should not be expected to stay for longer than has been agreed on, and the hours should be fair – just because you’re not at school at 4:00 am doesn’t mean you have to be volunteering then!
3. To know what the organisation is, who they are helping, and what their aims are
If you find that the organisation isn’t working towards what you thought it was, and don’t agree with it, you don’t have to stay. It is the organisation’s legal obligation to be truthful with you about what they do.
4. To be provided with sufficient training
Whilst you’re often thrown in the deep end when you start volunteering, you should still be given a basic training in how to do it! When you get stuck, ask someone! Other members of the organisation will have experience and knowledge that you don’t have yet, so don’t be afraid to get some help if you need it.