Why you should give time to volunteering

There are loads of benefits to volunteering. But these aren’t the reason to do it, says Charlotte Bean

By Charlotte Bean

My dad and I have a perennial debate about human nature. He reckons there’s no such thing as a truly altruistic act. He says every good deed is motivated by self-interest: when you do something generous, kind, or other-regarding, it makes you feel good about yourself.

    ...when you do something generous, kind, or other-regarding, it makes you feel good about yourself.  

That’s a well-known feature of volunteering. It makes you feel happy, and can ward of depression. Plus, volunteering can help you live longer.

Volunteering can also help you make important connections, from friends to potential colleagues. If you’re looking to build a career in a related sector, these contacts are worth their weight in gold.

But here’s the thing, because I disagree with my dad. I think altruism is alive and well, and volunteering is proof of that fact.

I’ve volunteered for several organisations and in different capacities over the past decade, from marketing administration to youth mental health support. All of these experiences have enhanced my skills and helped me to secure interviews and employment.

But that’s not the reason I’ve done it. I’ve volunteered because it’s the right thing to do.

With Brexit looming, economic uncertainty on the horizon, the climate in crisis and inequality still present across the world (and in many cases, growing), there has never been a better time to help others or commit to a worthy cause.

I believe that if you do not need help or representation, then you are lucky. Sadly, there are still so many who rely on charities and organisations and the help of others.

Gender, sexuality, place of birth, terminal illness or disability: none of these are choices and yet, on a daily basis, they are reasons that lead to persecution, oppression or disadvantage.

And then there are issues like climate change and animal rights, where we can shrug our shoulders and think “someone else will sort it out.”

But when do we stop passing on problems and take responsibility ourselves?

There are so many causes that we can help if we are willing to give up a bit of a time.

Rebecca Haines spent time volunteering at a supplementary school and, despite choosing to do so for career purposes, soon realised the intrinsic value of volunteering.

“I volunteered to gain experience and develop skills for my future career but found that I really enjoyed the feeling of doing good and helping others - I felt happy knowing I was making a difference,” she says.

“I think more people should volunteer. It’s a fantastic experience and it opened my eyes to the impact that volunteers can have. If you are able to offer something to help others, you should,” Rebecca adds.

One of my favourite books is Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Throughout the novel, Eliot encourages the reader to think of humanity as a web, emphasising the connections between all of us. The final sentence of Middlemarch reads: “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I think this is what volunteering is all about: small acts that may well be ‘unhistoric’ carried out by people who don’t necessarily receive the recognition they deserve, but that all add up to contribute to a better world for everyone.

I don’t know if that tells you who’s right between my dad and me. But either way, that’s why you should volunteer.

The volunteering 1 2 3

1. Choose to volunteer on behalf of something you really care about. That way, it will never seem like a chore. Think about what you’re passionate about, or what has personally affected you. Research organisations you can help that are aligned with your interests, or volunteer for a charity that has helped someone you know.

2. Find something that will work with your schedule. You don’t need to give up huge chunks of your week to volunteer. If you can’t commit to a regular time, there are plenty of ad hoc volunteering opportunities, such as volunteering to help at a fundraising event.

3. Make the most of your existing skills. Consider what it is you can offer and how those skills can be used to help others. Whether your talents lie in flower arranging or fashion, maths or music, there are plenty of ways your skills can be put to use. Visit the Do-it.org website to find an opportunity near you.

Published: 23 August 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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