The definition of volunteering changes to reflect the evolving ways volunteers are contributing to the society (Healey 2020). Volunteering is viewed as “time” offered for the public good by or to individuals or organizations willingly without materialistic reward in order to shape community inclusion. Volunteering is a voluntary act of an individual or group of individuals freely giving time and labor, often for community service. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue. Others serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster. With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness. The main benefits of volunteering are 1, (a) Volunteering connects you to others: One of the more well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills. (b) Make new friends and contacts: One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities. (c) Increase your social and relationship skills: While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts. (d) Volunteering as a family: Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you’ll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help other people and animals and enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you to get to know organizations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family. The second type of benefit of volunteering i.e., Volunteering is good for your mind and body are (a) Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety: The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person. Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. (b) Volunteering combats depression: Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against depression. (c) Volunteering makes you happy: By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel. (d) Volunteering increases self-confidence: You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals. (e ) Volunteering provides a sense of purpose: Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning and direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life. (f) Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy: Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can still benefit greatly from volunteering. In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering. The third benefit of volunteering can be explained under the heading, Volunteering can advance your career I.e., (a) Teaching you valuable job skills: Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women’s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent. Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills. (b) Gaining career experience: Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could benefit your career. (c) When it comes to volunteering, passion and positivity are the only requirements: While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable assets you can bring to any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to pitch in wherever needed, and a positive attitude. The fourth benefit of volunteering i.e., Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life can be explained under the heading (a) Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life: Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.(b) Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or help out at a children’s camp. In fact, there are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a position that one would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that one’s commitment matches the organization’s needs. One must decide to work of his choice. One can decide to work with adults, children, animals, remotely from home, work alone or as part of a team. The volunteer will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if he first takes some time to identify his/her goals and interests. Think about why he/she want to volunteer. What would one enjoy doing? The opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling. The volunteer generally, want to: Improve your neighborhood, Meet new people with different outlooks or experiences, Try something new, Do something rewarding with his/her spare time, See new places or experience a different way of living, Try a new type of work that one might want to pursue as a full-time job, Expand his/her interests and hobbies. One can find the volunteer opportunities in community theaters, museums, monuments etc. Volunteering doesn’t have to take over ones life to be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits. Volunteering should feel like a fun and rewarding hobby.
“Volunteerism is an enormous renewable resource for social, economic and environmental problem-solving throughout the world. As the world faces mounting challenges, volunteers are often the first to help. Volunteers are at the fore in crises and emergencies, often in very testing and dire situations. In conclusion, volunteering besides social is considered a religious duty. It can help volunteer to make friends, learn new skills, advance career, and even stay healthy.”
International Volunteer Day commonly known as IVD is celebrated on 5 December every year. It started as an international observance mandated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. It’s a day where volunteers are acknowledged and the spirit of volunteerism is promoted at the local, national and international levels. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme joins IVD celebrations with UN Volunteers and all volunteers around the world – amplifying the importance of people-led solutions to our common challenges. More than one billion people volunteer globally for solidarity and humanity, for people and the planet. International Volunteer Day allows different organizations to raise awareness of the contributions they make to the community. But teams and individuals can observe and celebrate this day by making similar contributions to a cause that is important to them. Here are 3 reasons why International Volunteer Day is important(1)Strengthens local and international communities:Many nonprofits and organizations rely on volunteer efforts to support their cause. In fact, there is a handful of nonprofits that don’t have paid staff and are run entirely by volunteers. Without them, they are unable to do the important work that has such an impact on both local and international communities. Initiatives like Paint Soles for Souls, Operation Cancer Care, Helping Hands, The Do Good Bus, and many other charitable programs, make local communities better, safer, and a happier place to live for all.(2)Allows you to meet people with similar values:Whether you are having a volunteering day by yourself or doing it with your company, it opens the door to meeting people with similar values. Especially at work, you may connect with someone you may have never expected based on their passion for a certain cause.(3)Creates a ripple effect to encourage others to volunteer:Whether you are building beds for animals in the shelter, cleaning up your local park, or giving donations to a food pantry, volunteering is inspiring. If you volunteer, share your experience. You may be surprised to find others who want to join you for your next volunteering day. International Volunteer Day (IVD), is an occasion to pay tribute to volunteers worldwide and to recognize the value of volunteerism in advancing peace and development. This year, we mark IVD by recognizing the power of collective action: If everyone volunteered, the world would be a better place. Imagine more than eight billion of us volunteering. Limitless possibilities for sustainable development – food and education for everyone, clean environment and good health, inclusive and peaceful societies, and more. Volunteerism is an enormous renewable resource for social, economic and environmental problem-solving throughout the world. As the world faces mounting challenges, volunteers are often the first to help. Volunteers are at the fore in crises and emergencies, often in very testing and dire situations. In conclusion, volunteering besides social is considered a religious duty. It can help volunteer to make friends, learn new skills, advance career, and even stay healthy.
(The authors regularly contributor for the opinion pages of “Kashmir Horizon”. The views, opinions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the authors and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)