For some of us the word ‘volunteer’ conjures up the image of people working in third world countries, battling harsh physical situations, and putting themselves in potential danger. Others bring to mind the good people working with organisations like Meals on Wheels, bringing food and company to those who can’t do for themselves. Others might think of those giving their time in the local library, tourist organisation, hospital, or community event.
The thing is, all are correct, and the only difference is perhaps the skills they bring to an organisation, and the amount of time they have to give. What drives them all, however, is the desire to help others.
While they are not entering into a volunteering role with the expectation of return, psychologists have for decades connected volunteering with happiness and general well-being. In a nutshell, the altruists who give their time (and sometimes their money) to good causes, feel better about themselves, and become better people because of that.
The Ebenezer Scrooge Effect
The concept of good deeds making better people is not new of course. For those who are familiar with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will recall how the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, a known miser and cold-hearted character, changed after the 3 Ghosts of Christmas dropped by. Acting on their messages, he discovered that with each act of kindness he performed he became more buoyant, eventually becoming one of the kindness and most generous men in England. He started to like himself!
Types of Volunteering: Does One Have Your Name On It?
Each country may have its own ‘umbrella’ volunteering guide, and each different organisation will have its own volunteer recruitment process. Some, particularly those that deal with the most vulnerable in our community – the aged, infirm, and young – understandably require special police and medical clearances.
If you are interested in volunteering in Australia, GoVolunteer (govolunteer.com.au), an initiative of Volunteering Australia, is a great place to start. Currently they have over 12,000 volunteer opportunities available, broken into the categories:
- Event Volunteering
- Student Volunteering
- Corporate Volunteering
- Volunteering in an Emergency
An interesting one I found was for “Story Dogs” in Queensland – an initiative where volunteers go, with their dogs, into schools for a one-on-one reading support session with a Year 2 child. The time with the child is just 20 minutes, but it is a 12 month program.
Another is for a Resume Support Mentor in Melbourne, where people with experience in creating resumes meet with a disadvantaged client, discuss their skills and experience, and help to create a worthwhile resume that will help them in their job search.
Don’t have time to volunteer in person? How about doing it online……..
Needed all over Australia: Online Simulated Program Volunteers [work from home] – an online role that helps our doctors of the future with their communication skills.
I’d be really interested in hearing of the volunteer experiences of readers, what works for you, and how it has impacted your own day to day life.