For BSL Students, seeking volunteering opportunities within the deaf community is a fantastic way to network, practice your BSL skills, and, more importantly, give something back.
When I was younger and started out my journey learning BSL, I was involved with a number of deaf charities – volunteering at events – doing things like selling raffle tickets, manning stalls and like-minded tasks that gave me a mutually beneficial way to be a part of the deaf community.
The more we give in life, the happier we feel. Volunteering can give us a place in the world, increase our self-confidence and bring us closer to the community we are volunteering in.
And now, onto the details…
Here are some D/deaf charities where you could volunteer:
- National Deaf Children’s Society – The National Deaf Children’s Society is the leading charity dedicated to creating a world without barriers for deaf children and young people
- Royal Association for Deaf people – Promoting equality for Deaf people through the provision of accessible services
- Action on Hearing Loss – experts in providing support for people with hearing loss and tinnitus
- Hearing Dogs for deaf people – training dogs to alert deaf people to sounds they would otherwise miss – simple sounds that many people take for granted like the doorbell, alarm clock, and even danger signals like the fire alarm
There are also a variety of events where you could volunteer your time:
- Exeter Deaf Academy – day and residential school and college for students from throughout the UK
- Sign Circle Festival – Sign Circle has been successfully running since 2007. This festival has provided entertainment for thousands of campers and volunteers
- Deaf Fest – Deaffest is the UK’s leading Deaf-led Film & Arts Festival
- Or simply help run some events at your local deaf club
It is equally important to point out areas where you should definitely NOT volunteer as a BSL Student:
- Avoid any areas of volunteering where you are being asked to communicate/interpret between parties. In these situations, either an NRCPD Registered Sign Language Interpreter (RSLI) or a Trainee Sign Language Interpreter (TSLI) should be used. Don’t be tempted. You can clearly explain that deaf people have the right to access communication fully, so a professional with years of training and experience should be sought
- Do not volunteer in any areas that would impinge on the privacy of the deaf community. What we mean by this – is we would never suggest that you accompany deaf people to the Doctors or other like-minded situations. I appreciate that if you have close deaf friends, this may be appropriate, as it would be for you to attend with a hearing friend – but it is just something to consider.
Do you have the skills required?
You need to be able to volunteer in environments where you have the skills to handle the situation effectively.
Are you genuinely interested in the environment you are considering volunteering in?
Whilst events are a fantastic opportunity to volunteer, make sure you’re doing it because you hold a genuine interest. This allows you to have enthusiastic and genuine engagement with those around you.