Volunteer for Cancer Research UK

Volunteering with Cancer Research UK is an amazing opportunity and shouldn’t be sniffed at! My name is Fleur Dijkman, and I work in a Cancer Research UK shop in Edinburgh.

Here are just a few of my top reasons to get involved.

Skills

Your CV looking a little… sparse? I’ve been there. I started volunteering in a charity shop when I was still in secondary school, and now I’ve rolled into a job as an Assistant Manager in a Cancer Research UK shop. Because of volunteering, I’ve now got a job I love.

The minimum age for volunteering in our shops is 18 but if you’re aged between 16 and 18 then you may still be still be able to volunteer in our shops but you must be on a recognised scheme, for example the Duke of Edinburgh.

Even if you’re not looking to work in charity retail in the long-run, it gives you the skills to obliterate that blank space on your CV. “Customer-facing experience”, “money-handling skills” and “developed creative skills” are just some of the buzz-words which will sit you on that comfy office chair at Dream Job HQ.

Confidence

If you’re looking for a dab of confidence, volunteering is ideal for you! It's also a great way to get to grips with working life and helps the transition from school become less daunting.

Cancer Research UK shops have lots of friendly volunteers and staff. Rather than chucking you out of your comfort zone, they gently nudge you in a way that lets you develop life skills your way, at your pace, so you can achieve your full potential.

Get into the swing of things

Sometimes the horse that is life can throw you off its back, leaving you struggling to clamber into the saddle again. If you’re going through a spot of rough-luck, volunteering is a great way to get back into the swing of things.

This is because it allows you to take as much or as little responsibility and purpose as you’re able. You’re in control. If you want to get out of the house but don’t want the demands of a job, volunteer. 

Find your volunteering family

The volunteers and staff in my Cancer Research UK shop are very different. They come from diverse places and are all sorts of ages, and work together to create an open-minded, wholesome and culturally-respectful community.

If you’re looking to meet friendly folk, Cancer Research UK has you covered with an amazing bunch of volunteers and customers. I now feel very invested in one volunteer’s saga about fitting a large sofa into small house and a customer’s rather specific ambition to fill their house with 17,000 CD's. And if you volunteer, you’ll get all the gossip too.

Feel good, be good and do good

Cancer Research UK aims to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

Last year, Cancer Research UK spent around £42 million in Scotland on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research. Every hour, four people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland*.

Everything volunteers do – from sorting donations when they come in to helping customers at the till when donations are sold – raises money which helps fund research. By volunteering, you are doing good, which is being good, so you feel good.

Shiny certificates

If I still haven’t convinced you, maybe a shiny piece of paper might. If you’re 25 or under, there are a lot of opportunities to volunteer through groups like the Duke of Edinburgh Award or Saltire Awards. 

Bonus: you can claim Young Scot Rewards Points through these schemes too!

These awards are treasured by uni’s and job recruiters because they show your confidence, capability and communication – skills which don’t come across in exam papers. 

Busting common myths about volunteering

What are some of the myths about volunteering that just aren't true?

"I don't have enough time..."

Time is not a barrier at all! Even two hours a week can be a great help. As much as I hate to say it, I play Candy Crush for longer than that.

"I'm not confident enough..."

You can apply to become a volunteer by walking into a Cancer Research UK shop and saying you’re interested. You’ll then be presented with an easy-peasy volunteer application form to fill out and they’ll tell you how to proceed.

I know it can be scary to go into a shop and ask for the manager. But it’s absolutely fine. If I might say so myself, we’re lovely people, and would warmly welcome any questions you might have.

Alternatively, you can apply online. 

"I know nothing about volunteering or how to put things through a till or stock taking..."

When it comes to volunteering, it doesn’t matter what you know when you get here. We train you, so you develop skills for the future. You add these skills to your metaphorical tool belt, so they’re with you wherever life takes you.

By Fleur, 23, Edinburgh

Fleur Dijkman is an Anglo-Dutch writer. She studied English Language and Culture in the Netherlands where she co-founded and taught at the English Academy for Newcomers. After completing her Creative Writing Master’s at the University of St Andrews, she now works as Assistant Manager in an Edinburgh Cancer Research UK shop.

* Based on the average annual number of new cases of cancer (ICD10 C00-C97 excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) diagnosed in Scotland between 2013-2015