Volunteering: Give a little, get a lot

Posted on December 05, 2017 by Melissa Donald

Volunteering at BVADecember 5 is International Volunteer Day, which has been on the go since 1985, before I even graduated!

Volunteering has been found in all cultures, languages and religions and varies from organised efforts, to simply giving somebody who lives alone an hour of your time, making the world a better place and helping to improve the life of others.

My experience

I was introduced to volunteering as a child. It didn’t have such a grand name then, it was just about helping other people. The first time I remember formally doing volunteer work was as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award, which involved helping out at a summer camp for teenagers.

Since then, I have volunteered at different stages of my life and career, from helping at my local parkrun, to giving back to the profession through BVA. Through my experiences I have found out that through volunteering, you get back a lot more than you give.

Vets giving back

We all know of vets who travel to improve the health and welfare of animals in other parts of the world. It’s also a way of seeing the world, especially off the main tourist tracks, giving local communities some of your skills in exchange.

I also do not know of a single practice that doesn’t do some pro bono work. Your time is given for free. Stats from BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession Survey have shown that 72% have formal arrangements with charities to provide veterinary services at a reduced fee with the figure rising to 84% when including less formal set-ups and 43% of vets do unpaid work for animal charities or other animal welfare organisations.

We are a caring profession, so volunteering in some shape or form is inevitable really!

Volunteering for BVA

Our professional organisations also depend on volunteers. The BVA for example employs just over 30 people to develop policy, ensure our voice is heard in the media, put on CPD and enable you to access your member benefits. But the BVA would not function without the thousands of hours of work that members do in their own free time.

The work varies from lobbying members of parliament (national and devolved), to speaking at events with school students considering applying for a place at vet school and everything in between. There’s also the hugely rewarding work behind the scenes as part of BVA’s committees and working groups, who develop policy through an extensive consultation process and produce a package of member benefits to support members of the profession across their differing career paths.

During my time volunteering for BVA I have seen first-hand how rewarding giving back to your profession and working to support my peers and their patients can be. As Scottish Branch President, I have seen Scottish Branch flourish and have worked hard with my colleagues to create a strong devolved veterinary voice that works to represent members in Scotland.  My personal highlight has been representing Branch in the recent exempted tail docking debate by giving oral evidence against the proposal to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee of the Scottish Parliament.  Whilst we didn’t get the result we wanted, I was comforted in the knowledge that I’d done all I could on behalf of our members to influence the decision.

Better together

When people ask ‘What does BVA do for me?’, I wave the flag for so many of my peers who are actively giving up their time to volunteer with BVA and make a difference to our colleagues across the profession. BVA has a membership of over 16,000 members, imagine what could be achieved if we all gave up our time to volunteer – it’s likely that the BVA has, or will help you professionally or personally at some point in your career. This can only be achieved through the members who give their time freely to assist the association in all it provides to veterinary professionals.

We are a small profession that punches well above its weight in terms of influence in many different areas. If we want change, then we need to push for it together to be heard. Personally, I think too many people shout for change, but are waiting for someone else to do it. If you feel strongly about an issue, work with us to do something about it. Volunteering can be a powerful action in itself.

More information

To see how you can get involved with BVA and the different opportunities available, please contact policy@bva.co.uk

Melissa Donald

Written by Melissa Donald

President of BVA Scottish Branch

Melissa is the current President of BVA Scottish Branch Prior to joining the BVA Scottish Branch Officer team, Melissa was President of the Ayrshire Veterinary Association. Melissa is also sits on RCVS Council and is an independent non-executive director for the Red Tractor farm assurance group.