It’s often the little things that can make the biggest change

Rachael Ann Hatfield is 19, from Inverness. She talks about the importance of recognition in volunteering. Being encouraged to reflect on her achievements and track volunteering milestones not only gave her a sense of pride but reminded her why she loves volunteering. 

As someone who wasn’t predicted to go very far after school, I struggled to fit in with my peers and never really had much sense of achievement in the things I did. That all changed when I started volunteering at my local Youth Forum. It was the first time I’d really found my voice and it was the first time I felt like I was getting recognition for being part of something. I was signed up for the Saltire Awards to recognise the time I was giving up to be part of the forum.

Looking back, I did so much to make the 500 hours certificate, from attending forum meetings, community events and even leading a project to get young people to the Scottish Parliament to meet then, newly elected, Maree Todd MSP.

At that time I was 17 years old and put in charge of arranging travel and the overall visit! It was the first chance I’d been shown that other people had faith in me. Needless to say it was a successful trip!

Since then, I’ve dealt with so many different things and achieved so much. I’ve gone on to represent the 7 Youth Forums in my area at the Highland Youth Parliament and my volunteering has even sent me down to London.
The one thing that has kept me going through the last few years hasn’t been the awards or certificates, but the platform they open to let others see what I’ve been up to. For example, In Inverness, I was part of the 2018 judging panel for the local Saltire Summit Awards. This gave me the chance to see how other young people, right on my doorstep are doing some pretty amazing things, that overwise may have gone under the radar. Sitting in on that awards ceremony reminded me that it’s often the little things that can make the biggest change, even if it is just having one person to believe in you.

More recently, I’ve been part of a force for change relating to volunteering in Scotland. This has been through Youth VIP, or for its long title, the Youth Volunteering and Innovation Project. It’s a group of 25 young people from all over the country creating recommendations about how youth volunteering should look like by 2028.

Recognition in volunteering doesn’t always need to be huge awards nights, but schemes such as the Saltire Awards really made a difference to me, as at every milestone, I was reminded that I achieved quite a bit over that period of time. To this day, they still continually remind me why I love volunteering, and that I won’t be stopping any time soon!
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