Blog | I volunteer, therefore I am
Carlos Lopez-Plandolit tells us about his passion for volunteering at Scouts…
Beyond the stereotype
I’m from Bilbao, Spain; I moved to Bow in London for my career in advertising. I did occasional volunteering with young people back in Spain and loved it; I really wanted to pick it back up in London so I visited do-it.org.uk and went through the options to search my area – one of the options that came up was Scouts.
I’ll be honest: my image of Scouts was the film, Moonrise Kingdom. I thought Scout leaders would be really geeky and I thought I’d have to wear one of those stereotypical, old-fashioned uniforms. Of course, I was wrong…
I gave my nearest Scout Group a call and they got back in touch with me. I initially thought that I would be a casual assistant of some sort – I didn’t really know; I just wanted to help and I didn’t really know how much time I’d be able to give, so I thought I’d do a little bit of helping out. I was told to pop by and just be kind of an observer; test it out and see if I liked it or not. On the night, I chatted to some of the young people and quickly realised that I really wanted to do this.
That was over a year ago – I’m now a fully-fledged leader and it’s made a massive difference to my life.
No experience required
I think two of the biggest deterrents in terms of volunteering are experience and time.
I was never a Scout. I didn’t have that background. I didn’t have lots of camping experience or extensive knowledge of outdoor activities. It doesn’t matter. I’m still learning and I make mistakes, but I think the kids kind of like that – I’m a regular guy and I’m quite laid back – it works for me and it works for the Scouts too.
And then there’s time, or lack of it. Personally, I need my own time: I like going out and socialising and I have my hangover days on Sundays! I love going to gigs and travelling and I’m not going to quit any of that any time soon; my volunteering doesn’t demand that I do. I’m really chaotic when it comes to organisation and time but when you start to do something like volunteering you realise you adapt really quickly – you just find the time. You discover how much time you used to waste and you spend more time doing productive stuff. Time doesn’t have to be an issue (unless you have a really big family of course!).
There are lots of kids in and around Bow and Scouts gives them an opportunity to make friends and enjoy themselves in a fun and safe environment. They’ll learn things that they wouldn’t learn anywhere else. You have kids from all cultures and backgrounds and they learn a lot about each other too.
I was reading an article recently about Generation Y: young people up to 18 years old. It said that this generation is becoming more and more aware of its environment than previous generations – they want to make a change. Scouts gives them the platform to develop this awareness of their environment and their immediate surroundings. It’s like opening the world to them at an early age.
At Scouts, we don’t teach them what the world is like; we encourage them to discover it. We let them come to their own conclusions. We can guide them but they have freedom.
One of the problems growing up is that you start replacing your perceptions for presumptions. Instead of judging depending on what you perceive, you pre-judge so you don’t have to go through the effort of finding out for yourself. One of the things I really like about being around the Scouts is they help you to think differently and open your mind – seeing the world from a young person’s perspective again.
Scouts encourages more of a magical and interesting way of looking at the world, and it’s an amazing world to be a part of.
Share your volunteering experiences: email firstname.lastname@example.org