Volunteering - Help yourself by helping others

With the rise of social media and smart phone, it often seems nowadays as if our lives' value is measured by the number of likes or comments we get. When we look around us, in restaurants, in public transports or in the comfort of our own homes, people seem more engrossed by what is happening on the screen of their smart phone and in their feed than in the person standing right in front of them.

However things are not as grim as they appear and there is still reasons to believe in the good of the human heart. In their communities and overseas, more and more people are taking positive action and getting involved as volunteers, following the famous quote by Gandhi, to "Be the change that [they] wish to see in the world".

Volunteering is a great way for an individual to make a positive contribution towards creating a better society, and give back to others. However, if you think that there is nothing to be gained by volunteering and that it is just a waste of your time and energy, you are misguided and here is 4 reasons why.

1. Helping others makes you feel good

Let's face it, when we look at the media and what is happening in the world around us, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. There are various reasons why people decide to volunteer for a cause, maybe they have lost a loved one to a disease, maybe they have a lot of time on their hands, there are as many reasons as there are people volunteering. The one common thing, though, between all these volunteers is the sense of empowerment that volunteering gives them. Knowing that this time that they are giving, "for free", is actually helping others and it makes a difference in other people's lives. Of course, one person's engagement won't solve all the problems of the world, but it's the sum of all of our efforts and actions that creates the world we live in.

And this sense of empowerment and of being part of the solution, chases the helpessness away. Volunteer and the sense of achievement it brings makes us feel better about ourselves, it elevates our sense of self-esteem and self-worth, which in turns makes us happier. And

2. Helping others makes you a better person

The experience of volunteering, makes us look at some of life's harsh reality in the eyes. When you are raising money for a cause such as a disease killing millions of people, a war somewhere on the other side of the world, a natural disaster in another country, it helps put your day to day problems in perspective. Of course the problems that we face in our daily life matter and are important to us, and why wouldn't they? After all, our life is the only reality we know and these problems can have huge impact on this reality, no matter how trivial they can seem to outside parties. However when we volunteer and get in contact with some of the issues of the world, it helps us rationalize things. We realise that our problems are actually not that bad in comparison, and it gives us the energy to face and overcome them. Volunteering and helping others, make us more compassionate individuals, it broaden our mind and understanding of the world and allows us seeing further than outside appearances. We stop looking at others from the perspective of how much money they earn, what clothes they wear, which job they have but in terms of their life story and the challenges they have faced or are currently facing. It makes us less judgmental and more understanding of others, and in terms of our humanity it gives us a wealth which no amount of money can provide.

3. Helping others give you the opportunity to connect with others

When you volunteer, you often get to meet other people who have decided to give their time for the same cause as you, but very often these people come from backgrounds completely different than yours. There is not a template in terms of what type of person volunteers for a type of cause. People usually decide to support a cause because they believe in and want to support it for their own reasons. That cause is what brings people from different social, ethnic, gender and age background together. When given the choice, we usually choose our friends or acquaintances based on our very own personal criteria and although it might not be conscious we do have a tendency to discriminate when we decide who we spend our time with. But when you are volunteering it's different, because what matters is what brings you all together, that cause and by working together for it, you start talking to people you probably would never have talked to otherwise (because of their age, gender, origins...).

Volunteering gives us that opportunity to meet and connect with a wide range of people, and expand our social circle beyond the opportunities of our daily life. And by meeting and and interacting with all these people, it helps you feel connected to a wider community and less isolated, which helps fight depression. Talking and working together with people from different background will also help you work on your communication and problem solving skills

4. Helping others can help your future career

If after all of the above reasons, you are still not convinced that volunteering is beneficial for you, consider that last reason. The connections, experience and skills you will get through your experience as a volunteer, are all part of you preparing yourself for entering the workforce. When you volunteer you have to work with other people, putting your differences aside to achieve the same goal, if you help for fundraising you have the opportunity to develop and improve your communication skills, and the list goes on. All this time that you spend working to help a cause as a volunteer, is experience that you can add to your CV. Employers like to see that you have done some volunteering because it tells them that you are the type of person who is ready to give some of their time for something they believe in. Volunteering can be hard sometimes, especially if you make a long term commitment and are busy with life and work or study, and potential employers know that. Your volunteering experience will demonstrate to them that you are a committed, reliable and hard working person. And when you have been volunteering for a while with an association, they are usually quite happy to act as a referee for you, and good references can be hard to come by, especially for young university graduates.

If you are interested in knowing more about the volunteering opportunity we have on offer at Active Wellington, contact us through: info@activewellington.co.nz

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