Making the most of it. Volunteering during dental school.

By Tara Bharadia

Dental School was a great time to get involved with volunteering.

The charities will come to your doorstep and you have abundant free time! As long as you enjoy how you volunteer your time, you won’t feel over-loaded. I tried to ensure I spent at least one hour of my week volunteering and seeking out opportunities that are close to my heart.

During my first few years at university, I tried to get involved with as many charities as possible. I volunteered with Girl Guiding UK for 2 years, helped in an administrative role for CityWise (a mentoring charity) and FoodCycle (a food waste and community charity).

I spent time on the CATS society committee (cancer awareness in teens), Refugee Crisis Foundation committee, Homeless Healthcare society and as a MedReach volunteer. Getting involved with charity societies at university was a great way to fundraise, raise awareness and help others with like-minded peers.

Fundraising is a great way to help charities if you can’t regularly volunteer your time. During my time at university, I have raised a total of over £5000 for a few charities.

I raised money for The Little Things by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, they work to donate medical equipment to the GULU hospital in Uganda. And through charity raffles I supported One Woman at a Time who work with women and girls across the world affected by FGM, domestic violence and forced marriage.

With successional COVID-lockdowns during my final year, the shape of volunteering changed.

While many opportunities had to stop, some new positions opened using a range of technological solutions. I was able to transfer my tutoring skills online, to teach Maths to primary school children (with the Tutor Trust) and GCSE English (with the Coronavirus Teaching Initiative).

During the quieter university times, I spent time as a warehouse aid with The Bread and Butter Thing – a foodbank delivering food packages across Greater Manchester.

Through the local government, I was able to help the older and isolated with their technology. As a Digital Champion, we worked to get these people back online, organise food deliveries and zoom calls with family.

St John’s Ambulance allowed me to help in a medical way, utilising my clinical skills to deliver the COVID vaccines. One of my favourite endeavors, was cooking and fundraising once a month for 60 homeless citizens across Manchester via Mad Dogs Homeless. Ensuring everyone had access to a warm meal during the pandemic was very important to me.

Volunteering is an important part of our society and I would strongly encourage others to make time to spend with charity.

The benefits to the wider world are obvious, but you will also reap rewards. Your mental health will improve, you will develop new skills and you will meet new people from all-walks of life.

As dentists, we sometimes think that progression can only be clinical but volunteering will improve your communication, empathy and problem-solving abilities.

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