A while ago, I read a little notice on the Vegan Society’s website calling for remote editorial volunteers to help proof-read articles. What a good way to get a little extra experience on my CV, I thought, and to have some involvement with a charity that works hard to get the vegan message out there. I quickly signed up and within a week, I had arranged to actually do a week’s worth of volunteering in the offices. The Vegan Society provide invaluable resources in nutrition, products, transitioning to veganism, and perspectives on the lifestyle, so volunteering seemed a fantastic way to get an insight into how they work, and learn a lot on the way.
The offices are based in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, and I learned from Dr Sam Calvert (Head of Communications and expert on history) that the city was chosen over other destinations for its good cost of living and location. The Society was founded by a group of non-dairy vegetarians, including Donald Watson, marking themselves apart from the Vegetarian Society. You can find more about the Vegan Society’s history on this webpage, including a really fascinating history of the Society’s beginnings by Dr Calvert.
In my week of volunteering, I met officers of campaigns, PR, the CEO, dietitian, the senior advocacy officer, and more. There’s far more going on than I was aware of, with the trademarking of vegan products a significant operation – that little logo our hearts fill with joy to see. They’re a committed group and do a great job!
I spent time researching an article for the Society’s magazine, The Vegan, and penned a couple of blog posts for the website, including one on the interaction of veganism and minimalism. I wrote a film review (of Okja, nonetheless), helped to edit a section of the website posting news, and subtitled YouTube videos. I researched worldwide vegan animal sanctuaries for a directory, which gave me so much optimism – there are so many people out there absolutely dedicated to caring for vulnerable animals.
The most striking aspect of volunteering is the sense of community: used to the fact that you have a minority belief, coming together with like-minded others bolsters your sense of the impact you’re having. It’s easy to lose sight of the growing population of vegans until you come into contact with so many at once! If you do feel disconnected, I’d really recommend taking steps such as joining vegan Facebook groups (UK Vegan, Vegan UK, Vegan Dogs United, What Skint Vegans Eat, and local groups), going to vegan festivals, or finding vegan cafes. YouTube is obviously an inexhaustible treasure trove of resources: try Nutritionfacts.org for everything you need to know health-wise, Mic the Vegan to debunk vegan myths and anti-vegan studies, Joey Carbstrong and Earthling Ed for fantastic activism, and vloggers such as Naturally Stefanie and Jon Venus if it’s gains you’re after.
To sum up – my volunteering experience made me realise that you don’t have to dedicate yourself to activism to be a ‘proper’ vegan. There are some people who would have you think such a thing – but I think that as long as you’re touching other people’s lives, you’re making them think about issues they might not have previously considered – and that in itself is enough.