Featured Illustration: Sascha Morawetz
Volunteering is the act of an individual or group freely giving their time and labor for community service. For some, it offers the chance to give something back to their community or make a difference in the lives of the people around them. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience.
In the past, people have allotted hours to fulfilling these endeavors. For instance, time and effort in the form of countless hours have gone toward initiatives such as donating money to notable charities, organizing food drives, volunteering at senior homes, participating in charity races, and more. Volunteering lends itself to opportunities for others to connect with new people, formulate friendships with them, and also have an increase in networking and job promoting opportunities following it.
Volunteering also brings with it resume-building skills. For instance, volunteering helps develop new networks, through which one will acquaint with job openings, training opportunities, and networking events. Through these networks, one will also build an awareness of the trends, issues, people, and resources in their community, and the causes that tug at their heart. At the same time, they allow them to elevate their visibility amongst experienced, influential community leaders. Those who volunteer can familiarize themselves with skills such as conflict resolution, communication, leadership, problem-solving, adaptability, and more.
For grade eleven, Astha Hardat finds tutoring to be a gateway to new experiences and the conception of new skills. She states that “it has given me skills like time management, working with children, [and] creating lesson plans.” Hardat also conveys how the act of giving back has molded her into a better version of herself. “It has helped me gain experience and be more responsible. I do think I have improved in talking to people, whether that is with the student or with the parents. Tutoring has helped me know how to sound professional as well as how to handle issues that don’t go as planned, which I believe is crucial to know how to handle in the working world.”
Volunteering not only offers resume-building skills and experiences, but is crucial to maintaining one’s mental health. Volunteering has been found to counteract stress, anxiety, and depression. In a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers examined data from nearly 70,000 research participants in the United Kingdom, who received surveys about their volunteering habits and their mental health every two years from 1996 to 2014. Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. In addition, according to another study, people who were 55 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44% less likely to die over five years than those who didn’t volunteer.
There is a correlation between mental health and volunteering, as volunteering relies on generosity and intrinsic pleasure. Astha Hardat, who dedicates hours to the act of tutoring, found the experience to help aid in “combat[ting] a lot of my negative skills like lack of responsibility or sleeping late.” She states that “it has positively impacted my mental state, helping me make more responsible choices that benefit my state of mind.”
Volunteering is not only integral to the act of building skills, networking, and benefiting one’s mental health, but it allows for people to give back to their community, and form ties with other community bodies, such as the government and other such agencies. Volunteering is about giving back to others. It provides those of less privilege or capabilities, the love and support they need to feel nurtured. Dedicating time towards places such as senior homes, the Canadian Cancer Society, Special Olympics, Kids Help Phone, YACOS, and other such organizations can offer meaningful support to those in our community. During COVID-19, people can volunteer by tutoring online, having sing-a-longs via Zoom for seniors, participating in creating online writing and mental health guest speaker events, and much more.
Volunteering is all the more needed during this time, as connections to our communities are integral for those who have to experience the pandemic on their own. Volunteering is also needed to support one’s mental wellness, build on new skills, and help those who need the support feel nurtured.