Meet the Experts: Caroline Davis
I joined Girlguiding—the U.K.’s largest youth organisation dedicated to girls, part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts—soon after my seventh birthday. I still remember my first night at Brownies. I felt so proud of my new brown dress and bobble hat—but it was the sense of belonging to a worldwide organisation that gave me goosebumps. Leafing through the Brownie handbook, I saw pictures of uniforms from many different countries. There were wide hats, pointy hats, ties, sashes, blue skirts, green dresses, and white baggy trousers, all combining to create a vibrant patchwork of which I felt excited to be part. I loved the idea that I now had Brownie sisters all over the world.
I moved up through Girlguiding’s sections and at age 14 I fundraised to attend a camp in the Netherlands, where I saw the mix of international uniforms firsthand and found it exhilarating to chat with and learn from people from across Europe and beyond. Through my travels with Girlguiding, I made many other special memories, from teaching English to children in a rural village in Pakistan to camping with lemurs in a rainforest in Madagascar.
I owe so much to one volunteer, Brenda, who led my Guide unit, for opening the door to those tremendous opportunities. Her encouragement gave me the confidence to take on new challenges and eventually leadership roles. Brenda was an outstanding role model who believed in the girls she worked with week in and week out, helping each of us to be bolder and pursue new adventures.
Decades on and I understand why Brenda gave so much to her voluntary role. By becoming a volunteer myself (currently as a Brownie leader), I’ve continued to be part of the community that has inspired me and given me so many “mountaintop moments.” It’s been so rewarding to see girls who were initially shy when I first met them brimming with excitement on their return from international trips I’ve had the privilege of shaping. As a trustee and in senior volunteer roles, I’ve gained new skills in project management and strategy development. My interactions with girls and my fellow volunteers offers me new perspectives and a great deal of fun. During the pandemic, our online Brownie meetings gave me a weekly dose of joy and a sense of connection when I felt overwhelmed and lost in other parts of life.
Like Girlguiding, CASE is nothing without its volunteers, and I remain in awe of the time and expertise our volunteers give to our organisation. I know from my own experiences in higher education roles—nearly two decades working across the advancement portfolio first at Imperial College London then at St George’s, University of London—that CASE members have busy and demanding jobs, but our volunteers still manage to carve out space to guide our data work, inform our strategy, and deliver CASE programmes. In doing so, they are strengthening the advancement profession, supporting people at different stages of their career to achieve more, and ultimately benefiting the educational institutions we serve.
Our volunteers should feel proud of the impact they make on others—but often, when I thank them, they consistently point to the impact volunteering has had on them.
Indeed, their sentiments are backed by data. According to research conducted by the U.K.’s National Council for Voluntary Organisations, enjoyment was the highest rated (93%) benefit of volunteering. More than three-quarters of those surveyed reported that volunteering improved their mental health and well-being.
Fulfilment, community, and inspiration feature in both the descriptions I would use in my own volunteer experiences and in those CASE volunteers have shared. If you would like to give back to the profession through CASE, learn more about our volunteer opportunities here. I hope you will find that you gain a great deal more than you give.
About the author(s)
Caroline Davis is the Co-Executive Director for CASE Europe.
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