There are so many amazing benefits to volunteering, from making a difference to people’s lives and communities, to boosting self-confidence and wellbeing and gaining valuable work experience.  The recent Coronation ‘Big Help Out’ was a chance for many people to experience this and highlight the power volunteering has to make a difference.

I became involved in volunteering due to my passion for international development, which started at a very young age! I grew up in Nigeria, where my father worked on irrigation projects in rural areas of the country.  At nine, I went to school in England and spent my school holidays in Lagos and later Kano, and I started building a picture of the contrast between Nigeria and England. 

Travelling with my mum and sister and our driver Samuel in 1977.  Bananas were a favourite on our long journeys!

I fell in love with the Nigerian people, their culture and despite my young age I could see the struggle that daily life brought - life tested people all the time, whether it be the heat, the tropical storms, the pests, the famines, tropical diseases, crime, lack of housing, utilities and services such as hospitals and schools.  Everything I took for granted in England, people in Nigeria could not.


                  My mother buying meat at the market, Kano                                                     My mother accompanying my father on work trips

After a degree in Geography & Anthropology, an opportunity arose to do a Master’s in Applied Population Research.  This was in 1991, at a time when population was a hot topic, with the first Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994.  Nearly thirty years on, many of the targets set out at this Conference have yet to be met!  My masters led to short unpaid internships with UNFPA, USAID and then a programme officer role with Marie Stopes International in East & West Africa.  Following a move to Wiltshire in my late 20s and with children to look after, I was unable to work in international development as all the agencies and charities were based in London, so I built a house, learned to ride, and worked part time for a property business that I founded with my husband.  During this time, I volunteered on the school PTA, fundraising for new classrooms, ran our local toddler group for 4 years, volunteered with a charity helping disadvantaged children with access to computers and travelled to Madagascar to help build a school.  I also took part in a Tough Mudder to raise money.


Making Bricks in Madagascar 2019

At the beginning of the Covid lockdown and with increased remote working technology, I felt I had a chance to return to the international development sector.  I enrolled on several brilliant online BOND courses to update my knowledge, as well as a PM4NGO DPro management course and began volunteering in 2020, joining EdUKaid this year.  EdUKaid is a charity I enormously admire because its projects are participatory, community led and sustainable, all values that I believe to be incredibly important to success and longevity of impact and change. 


Tough Mudder

I love volunteering as it allows me to have a meaningful role in this competitive sector and to work for charities that are passionate about making a difference to people’s lives.  With the government encouraging older workers to retrain, it is a fantastic way to increase experience within this sector, to continue training through courses made available to charities and to keep up to date with current trends.  Due to the large time away from the sector in my 30s and 40s, I hope my volunteering will lead to a paid freelance job where I can continue to engage my passion.  If it doesn’t, then I am just incredibly happy to be helping others less fortunate and adding value to the world we live in. 

Emma O'Grady