My experience of volunteering and giving back to the community By rahul Seth

About me

Hi, my name is Rahul Seth. I'm in my late twenties working as a Chartered Accountant for the not for profit industry. I am passionate about photography, tennis, cycling and travelling. I am also the founder of the Perth Active Depression Support Group.

One other aspect in my life that I have enjoyed doing is volunteering. My first experience (of which I would detail a bit later) of volunteering came in 2009, but it wasn't until 2013 that I actively participated in volunteering on an ongoing basis.

Volunteering has given me new friendship connections, strong levels of personal satisfaction, use of life skills learned to good use, as well as acquisition of new skills and expression of creativity in many different facets. In this magazine I will outline some of my volunteering experiences what they have brought for me, the major lessons learned and how you can get involved in it yourself.

North Coftesloe Beach

Boardies Day 2009

At the latter end of 2009 I hit a life snag when I was made redundant from my then employer due to not enough work being sustained to maintain my position. Early into what turned out to being quite an unfortunate lengthy stint of unemployment I kept an eye on the event volunteering section of the volunteering WA page to see if there was something I could do to fill my time.

I saw an advert for Boardies Day, which is Surf Life Savings annual fundraising day. Swimming at the beach is such an integral part of the Australian lifestlye and the dedicated volunteers give countless hours of service protecting beach goers. I came dressed in my boardies and was given a surf lifesaving shirt to wear. It was such an honour to represent them for a day and to raise funds for a worthy cause.

Greatest lesson learned - the power of the brand

At the start of the day I asked if I could keep the surf lifesaving shirt as a memento of the day. I was initially told I couldn't due to the value associated with it. Not fully comprehending this, I proceeded with the day and held out my tin to collect donations from the public.

Wearing that symbolic bright yellow and red shirt made me stand out in the shopping centre. I had members of the public ask me how much time I had dedicated to the service, and they were impressed that I was just a member of the general public raising funds for the cause. I quickly learned how valuable wearing that iconic piece of clothing was.

At the end of the day I was allowed to keep the shirt, and I still possess it, but I haven't worn it since that day and nor will i in future. It was special to dress up as a surf lifesaver for a day, but I not one of them and don't want to pretend to be. Volunteering puts you in the public eye and brings a lot of respect to you from various patrons. That was the big lesson learned from my first go at volunteering.

My first day of volunteering.
The Oxfam Store - Perth

The Oxfam Store

As my unemployment stint continued into 2010 I looked for an ongoing way to volunteer, mainly to fill my time up and also to improve my employment prospects. I visited a volunteer resource centre to see what I could do to fill my time. One of the opportunities that was available was to be a volunteer at the Oxfam store.

Oxfam is a well respected global brand assisting many people in the world living in poverty. This experience was very special as it reminded me of working my old days at Coles, but for a better purpose. The store sells a wonderful array of goods and does a fantastic job of representing what Oxfam is all about.

Greatest lesson learned - no matter how tough you are doing it, there's always someone else doing it tougher

The period in which I volunteered for Oxfam wasn't the greatest in my life and that was due to the length of unemployment I went through. However, I just had to spend a few minutes in the store to realise how lucky I was. We live in a country where we are given an abundance of resources when we are out of work from the government, from paid allowances to free health care & assistance with services that aim to connect you back to employment.

People that Oxfam who might of been in a similar situation that I was in during that time wouldn't have fared as well. In fact, things would be contrastingly worse, where it would be just an achievement to have food and water for the day. The Oxfam experience kept me in check and reminded me to look at the bright side of life.

My 2nd Befriend meetup

Befriend Inc

After reestablishing myself in my professional career, I was still searching for connection and purpose in my personal life, so I looked for ways to find that through volunteering. I stumbled on a group called Befriend Inc through Google. Befriend is a local WA based not for profit group based on social connection for all. Founded in 2010 by occupational therapy students, the group has expanded and continued into bigger and better things.

Befriend does an array of events, such as regular monthly social catchup, to big events, which is capped of with their big annual ball. Befriend represented my first ongoing role in volunteering and taught me about teamwork, personal development and the importance of social connection.

Greaest lesson learned - volunteering can be just about anything!

The great thing about Befriend is that it gave a mechanism to do anything I wanted for a volunteering basis. Something as simple as holding a social walk or an impromptued game of basketball may not sound like something that is a typical volunteer experience, but at befriend it was and provided a mechanism to allow people to connect that may not otherwise exist.

TEDxPerth 2015


Since 2013 to this present day I have had an ongoing involvement with TEDxPerth. For those who aren't familiar with TED or TEDx, TED is a global organisation based on "ideas worth spreading". They hold 2 global conferences, where presenters give engaging talks of up to 18 minutes long on the latest new ideas. TED allows for independent groups to hold a TED like conference, which are known as TEDx events.

I got involved with TEDxPerth as on a day volunteer, helping them to run their 2013 event at UWA. While there. I said to the treasurer at the time "I'm a chartered accountant, is there any need for one I the organisation?". He happily met with me a few times after the event and I became their finance manager, which sees me primarily do their audited financial accounts and other finance related matters.

TEDxPerth has grown and evolved during the time I have been there, moving from a 750 seat venue in UWA to a 1700 seated venue in the Perth Concert Hall, commanding sponsorship and patronage from some of. Perth's most influential organisations and individuals.

Greatest lesson learned - keep volunteering efforts in balance

This lesson might sound fairly negative in comparison to other lessons learn as mentioned in this magazine, but I feel it's important to express in context of volunteering in general.

When I first came to TEDxPerth I was highly enthusiastic of being part of a global brand and just wanted to do anything I could for the group. It eventuated that in the 2014 year that I stretched myself too far and took a couple more duties than I could handle for numerous reasons. Running a TEDx event can be highly challenging due to the sheer high quality standard of work that is expected to run an event of its scale and As a result I burned out and didn't enjoy the event as much as I should of.

For the 2015 year I scaled back my involvement in my group and just stuck to maintaining the accounts. I decided to on the day become a behind the scenes photographer, and it's this experience that rekindled my love for TEDxPerth.

Volunteering is a lot of fun, but like everything in life it needs moderation and balance. Commit to your volunteer organisation and give to them what you can, but you don't need to overextend yourself in your efforts. Keeping that balance between giving your efforts and maintaining other life aspects will make you far more appreciative of what you do, and no one will judge you for not giving more than you can offer.

How can you get involved in volunteering

1) Volunteering WA website or or other internet sites

The best place to start finding volunteering opportunities is to look up your local volunteering organisations page. As I am based in WA I'm going to use Volunteering WA as that is where I started by doing event volunteering for Surf Life Saving WA. You can give them a call or look up opportunities on the website.

2) Volunteer resource centres

Another good way to get involved with volunteering is to contact centres at local councils that engage with not for profit organisations. Most local governments have hubs that get their local residents connected to local based not for profits. It's also a friendly way to have a chat with a real person to find out what opportunities are out there.

3) Contact not for profits directly

Many big not for profits hire professional staff that look after human resource issues for the organisation, similar to large for profit entities. These staff can handle your queries directly and see if they can get you involved with their organisation.

The same can be said for small not for profits in the sense that their volunteers monitor communication channels and they are always willing to take on new volunteers to champion their cause.

Stay in touch

All images featured in this e-magazine were taken by myself