Megan Ann Pang is a final year BSc Economics and Geography student and she has been volunteering for the Anna Fiorentini Theatre & Film School. She spoke to us about what it's like to do both regular and one-off volunteering in the arts, as well as what motivates her to keep volunteering!
Initially, I applied for a one-off volunteering opportunity for the Anna Fiorentini Theatre & Film School via the volunteering directory. It was for their annual talent show, so I was supposed to help out with ushering, backstage work and taking care of the children. I thought that it was a pretty cool opportunity and since it was a one-off, there was no fear of commitment – it was just for one Saturday, after all.
In the process of my application, the school asked me for a phone interview. It was a fairly standard interview but at the end of it, the interviewer asked if I’d be interested to come on board as a regular volunteer. I thought that it might be a sign and decided to try it out. At the back of my mind, I was thinking that if I really did end up disliking it, my worst case scenario would be to pull out. So I actually started volunteering before the actual talent show – the school was very responsive and great to work with, which kept me engaged in the process and now I’m a regular volunteer!
The school has several branches but I volunteer with the Camden branch. I help out with their morning session and each session has lessons in drama, film music and dance. I’ve mostly assisted with the drama sessions – having signed up as a drama school assistant and drama being the art form I’m most comfortable with, but I also help out with the other classes when need be. The teachers at the school are open to letting me join in the other classes too so that has been pretty fun. The kids are actually preparing for an upcoming show now for their parents and I’ve been assisting the teacher with directing. The drama teacher at the School does theatre professionally and I think being in the same space as someone from the industry really helps; as an aspiring actress, having the chance to interact with a professional is always beneficial. It’s not like UCL doesn’t have acting opportunities – we certainly do, but dabbling in something so regularly like this opportunity is a bonus!
It’s really nice to have an activity on the side, like volunteering, that lets you continue pursuing your hobbies, especially since my full-time occupation is ultimately still being a student.
Honestly, children are really not my forte – I don’t really know what to do with them so before I started that was my potential concern. During my first session, I thought that it was going to make or break the experience, but the kids were just so welcoming! I remember one of the kids, Sammy, just came up to me and gave me a hug. Ever since then I sort of became friends with all the kids. Personally, I’d like to think that volunteering’s helped me become less fearful of children.
The nature of the one-off that I initially signed up for is quite different from my regular work. The show is not just for the Camden branch but for kids across all Anna Fiorentini schools. I got to see the kids from my usual branch with kids from other branches. There was this girl performing and I helped tie her braids backstage. She was pretty nervous so we did some exercises to calm her nerves and guess what – she went on to win the talent show! It was really cute and it’s kind of crazy to see the kind of talent the kids have. Volunteering at a drama school, it does make me think about the value of doing theatre or the arts when you’re younger, as I get to see the children grow in the process and become more confident.
I’ve also gained some new opportunities from the school since – the school has a regular receptionist that does attendance taking and other admin-related tasks but occasionally they ask me to do reception covers, sometimes at a different branch. I take attendance and fill up weekly reports; it’s very interesting because as a volunteer you don’t really get to do behind-the-scenes admin stuff and this has helped me understand the organisation better. Recently, they’ve even asked me if I was keen on doing a first aid course!
I would say that if you volunteer regularly, the organisation can see that you’re committed to it and they’ll be more willing to give you other opportunities for further development.
I definitely enjoy volunteering with Anna Fiorentini, but it really depends on what you’re interested in. For me, I wanted to be able to do theatre and the arts so it was a really great opportunity. For those of you still thinking about volunteering, a one-off is a good way to test the waters – it’s low commitment, but you’ll get to see what an organisation does, making it a very good taster session. If you’re committing full-time, it can be super scary at first and till now, sometimes I do ask myself, “why am I doing this?”. I think it helps to keep in mind the reasons for volunteering and just keep doing it – it gets better the more you volunteer, making it part of your routine and really believing in why you do what you do. By committing, you also create trust with the organisation and you may get more opportunities along the way.
Remember why you're volunteering and just enjoy the process – I do it for the arts, and actually now for the children as well, especially since I keep seeing them. Now, I don’t tell my friends “Oh, I’m going for volunteering” anymore – instead, it’s more “Oh, I have to go see my children today!”
Like Megan said, if you find a volunteering opportunity in an area you're passionate about, it's like another hobby! Check out our volunteering directory for all opportunities which you can filter by category to find one that suits you. You can also check out our one-off volunteering opportunities if you'd like a time-light taster to volunteering.