Thursday, March 4, 2010

We must be the change we wish to see. Ghandi

This is an essay I wrote for my English class last week. We had to stand up in front of the class and read it. Kind of a public service announcement.

We must be the change we wish to see. Ghandi

It is just two hours a week and the benefits all around are a huge return on your time. People look around at their lives and think, “I don’t have any spare time to help.” Perhaps they could find the time if they knew that volunteering would make them happier and might even help them have healthier and longer lives.

Volunteerism is often considered an altruistic endeavor and ultimately, that is what makes a volunteer feel good. However, volunteering has some other benefits. The tangible benefits are that of helping a volunteer be more successful in their working life. Volunteering can help a person gain a new skill, open up networking opportunities with like minded people, show potential employers that you have a sense of teamwork, dedication, and are flexible. The possibilities of skill building in volunteering are endless, if helping to plan an event; you could acquire the skill of managing a group of people, the skill of planning and executing the design of how an event will happen, the skill of training others for like endeavors. Research has shown that 73 percent of employers are more likely to hire someone who has volunteer experience on their resume. (WVW) That fact alone is a tangible benefit of volunteering.

Looking at volunteerism from other angles shows the intangible benefits of volunteering. Participating within ones community gives a sense of belonging, giving back to the place where one lives. As a volunteer a person can gain a sense of accomplishment and find motivation to do more. Volunteering provides opportunities for social connection, making new friends and meeting different people. With little risk or expense (maybe none) a person can gain new experiences, such as building a house, spending time with animals, learning a new art form or craft and many other activities outside their usual demographic. Volunteering is also a way to set an example for people around you; it is a way to inspire others to give back.

The benefits of volunteering have even been realized by Corporate America, as large and small companies alike have implemented volunteer programs for their employees. Toyota Motor Company founded their VIP (Volunteers in Place) program in 1994, offering their employees donation benefits to their favorite charity based on the employee’s volunteer hours. The development of this program was prompted by the employees. Many employees were already volunteering outside of work so it was simple for the human resources department to get behind a volunteer program companywide. Not only do the employees and their charity benefit, but it is good business, the company experiences benefits as well, turnover, productivity and morale improved after the program was implemented. (Leonard)

Not only do adults benefit from volunteering, but our youth can reap the rewards of their participation, too. It has been shown that students who volunteer have a higher grade point average, are more successful in their social skills and show a greater respect for their community. While youth participation does happen on its own, the studies show that a young person is more likely to participate in volunteerism if a parent or sibling also participates. It probably doesn’t need to be mentioned, but a youth involved in constructive activities is less likely to find themselves in trouble.

The greatest of the benefits of volunteerism is likely to be that of health and mortality. All of the previous tangible benefits mentioned certainly contribute to a person’s health and well being but research shows as a person ages, volunteering helps them to have better health and to live longer. Aging can find a person losing friendships, (due to matriculation), finding that one can’t get around as well as in their youth, retiring and finding they have no purpose, and an empty nest, all of these things can contribute to decline in well being. Volunteering provides mature adults with opportunities to make new friends, find activities that they can do, give them a sense of purpose and provide them with social interaction to keep them busy. (Robert Grimm) Research has shown that these factors contribute largely to longevity and that when folks contribute with their volunteerism, they are more likely to live longer.

There are ways for everyone to contribute, to participate in their own communities with vast opportunities to do things one could never imagine possible. Locally there a plethora of volunteer organizations that need help, simply by plugging in the word volunteerism in your web browser you can find tons of amazing things to do. Heald also promotes student participation in volunteering in order to help students with their resume. As a result of my own desire to volunteer I found a website that will match a person up with a volunteer opportunity right here in our community. On Friday I begin training to become a ‘side walker’ at Saddle Pals Therapeutic Center in Orangevale, where I will be assisting clients with physical and developmental disabilities ride horses for therapy. As I am working in the MA program and want to work with children and animals this opportunity offered many facets that will assist me in my goal, not to mention the good feelings it will generate!


Brian Miller said...

nice. some of the greatest experiences in my life came from volunteering. helping people with horses sounds really cool. enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. It is an incredibly rewarding achievement in ones life to volunteer. I used to volunteer at Amy's school, perhaps not on a grand a scale as some, but I used to feel satisfied that I had helped someone.

CJ xx

Pat said...

I have volunteered all through my kids' school years with the PTA, school newsletter, etc. I also volunteered with the legally blind, and later with the deaf/blind. I gained so much from volunteering. I haven't done any since we've been on the road. Once we settle in a home, I'd like to volunteer again.