Domino’s pizza hand out free condoms.
For the last two days I’ve been volunteering at a fresher’s fair. For anyone outside of the UK who might not know what that is, it’s an event where companies and non-profit organisations promote their services/opportunities to students at university. Fresher’s week is a very popular period for many people as it’s an opportunity for students to meet new people, drink a lot of alcohol and pick up freebies (I didn’t buy a pen throughout my university years because of the free pens I got at the fresher’s fair). It’s known for being a big party week and safe drinking and safe sex are often the topic of conversation for those outside of the student activities (and maybe for some inside, too).
Today I was given a free condom as part of a goody bag from Dominos. It made me laugh. Since when did the pizza guys start making/handing out condoms?
I was at the fresher’s fair because I was helping out on one of the stalls. Talking to students about the work that the organisation I volunteer with does and how they might be able to get involved themselves. It was a successful event; we handed out many, many leaflets and spoke to a lot of people. We even took down a few names and contact details for some people who were really interested in volunteering.
My background is in the voluntary sector. I started volunteering when I was sixteen and have since clocked up thousands of hours donating my time to a number of different charities. Whenever any charity collectors stop me on the street, I don’t give them money, because I feel like I do enough for good causes. It’s part of me and it gives me something so important; it’s given me a purpose, it’s given me friendships and it’s give me confidence.
When I went to university I didn’t do a standard course (e.g. psychology, history, English, they’re all quite popular), because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. The only reason I went to university at all is because I wanted to do a very specific course which fitted around the idea of charity work. I learnt about project management, funding, youth led regeneration and many more subjects besides. It gave me a thirst to do more, it gave me confidence to go out there and be someone others could look up to.
The year I finished my degree course was the same year that the financial crisis had begun to kick in (it started in the UK in 2008 and I graduated in 2009). The first thing to go in financial crises are funds, whether they’re funds for activities run by the council or funds councils allocate to voluntary groups in the area, or funds for jobs full stop. Money had to be cut and everywhere you looked, people were chopping up budgets and starting again. They went and they went hard and fast. A lot of money that is usually up for grabs was funnelled into the Olympic Games and voluntary organisations that worked around sport related activities. The funding for everything else vanished, or at least severely diminished. Over a few years a lot of charities closed their doors for good. Some after being around for a decade, two decades, maybe even more. A handful merged together, solidifying their futures. For the smaller charities, it was the nail in the coffin in an otherwise difficult funding climate.
So here I am, years later, wondering where I am going with my life. I sit around, I volunteer, I look at job adverts and I wonder what I want to do with the rest of my days. The more time goes on, the more I wonder if working in the voluntary sector is for me. The longer I wait for the perfect jobs, the further away I get from an old dream and the closer I get to taking anything that will come my way because there’s just nothing else available.
The fresher’s fair reminded me of something. It reminded me of my dreams; it reminded me of the things that I would happily do for a living, the tasks I would willingly take on, work hard at and do a darn sight better job than some of the paid workers I saw over the last two days. I don’t take work lightly, whether it’s paid or voluntary, I give it my all regardless.
Despite my dreams still sitting there, on the periphery of my life, I know that the chance of getting a job that fits those dreams is hard. It’s harder than hard. It’s actually pretty darn near impossible. There aren’t enough jobs in all professions, lets alone the professions that some government people consider to be unpaid positions. I wonder if I should dig my heels into my volunteering and take on more activities. But people worry that I’ll burn out; they worry that we shouldn’t do too much in case it is too much. Except that I don’t work, I don’t do anything but sit at my computer, eat, sleep, eat some more and read my books. I don’t live in the way some people do. I don’t go to clubs or pubs, I don’t socialise and I don’t meet people. My recent volunteering has given me a lease of life; it has given me somewhere new to spread my wings. And I so desperately want to spread my wings and fly. I want to do more, I want to do things I’ve never done before, and I don’t think it’ll burn me out. I think it’ll give me more passion, it’ll push me further into a place I want to be and it’ll make me wish that I could have it all in a paid environment.
Dreaming is hard sometimes, it’s fierce and fickle and more often than not the world doesn’t always help you along the way. Obstacles crop up, obstacles that quite frankly are near impossible to overcome and there’s very little we can do about them.
But hey, at least I had a good couple of days.