The most rewarding thing any human can do for another being is give something of value that will enhance his or her life without asking for a reward. I did volunteer work at a homeless shelter in Cape Town with three teenagers.
I not only used all my skills as a parent but also used my coaching skills to get them into mainstream schooling. I worked on their self-esteem issues and encouraged them to read and talk on a daily basis. It’s amazing what encouragement and positive words can do for a person’s self-esteem.
That was ten years ago.The last time I heard from the Homeless Shelter was a year ago.The teenagers were now flourishing adults and were qualified as artisans.
We should teach our children to do unselfish acts. There are so many ways we can give back to a community eg your local church. Setting up a food kitchen, giving money, giving your time. We can give back in different ways. It does have an impact on the community.
Should I volunteer?
There’s good evidence that volunteering brings benefits to both the person volunteering and the people and organisations they support.
Volunteering involves spending unpaid time doing something to help other people or groups, other than (or as well as) close relatives. Evidence suggests that volunteering brings health benefits to both the volunteers and the people they help.
According to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), during the period August 2012 to April 2013, 44% of adults in England said they had volunteered at least once in the previous year.
In an attempt to measure the benefits on volunteers, Volunteering England commissioned the University of Wales to undertake a review of research on the subject. Dr. Rachel Casiday, a lecturer at the Department of Voluntary Sector Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter, led the review. She describes its findings below.
“Peer support doesn’t just work one way,” says Dr Casiday. “Even if you’re in a mentoring role, simply talking to someone else who is struggling with the same issue can support you as well. It’s not just an act of charity. In a lot of cases, the volunteer is helped as much as the patient.”
“Volunteering can yield as many benefits, if not more, for the volunteers themselves,” says Dr Casiday. Benefits can include:
Quality of life
A May 2012 study by the Royal Voluntary Service (formerly the WRVS)found that volunteering in later life decreased depression and social isolation. It was also found to boost the quality of life and life satisfaction.
Ability to cope with ill health
Volunteering can help people come to terms with their own illness and help take their mind off their own problems. One study found that it helped them perform better in their own daily lives.
A healthier lifestyle
“The research looked at smokers volunteering in stop-smoking services, who then gave up themselves,” says Dr. Casiday. “It also studied binge drinking on university campuses, and found that when students were volunteering, they drank much less.”
Improved family relationships
A study comparing older volunteers with older non-volunteers showed that the volunteers had better relationships with their family. “This may be because their caregiving role carries over into personal relationships and makes older volunteers more independent and less reliant on their family,” says Dr. Casiday.
Meeting new people
Volunteering is a good way to meet people. This can be vital for older volunteers and people who might be isolated or not particularly integrated into society.
Improved self-esteem and sense of purpose
“This can be really important in getting someone back to work,” says Dr. Casiday. “Volunteering can bring back your self-esteem and motivate you. Improved self-esteem can have an effect on other areas of your health and life.”
The report by Dr.Casiday concluded that it is difficult to accurately measure the effect of volunteering on people who use the NHS because the range of volunteering roles is so varied. The report did reveal the following results for patients:
Increased self-esteem and confidence
When someone has a long-term condition, their self-esteem is often affected, making it difficult for them to talk to doctors. “Having a volunteer to act as a mediator can really make the patient feel supported,” says Dr. Casiday. Volunteers can improve the relationship between staff and patient.
Better social interaction, integration, and support
A volunteer is more likely to be seen as someone who’s on the same level as the patient (a peer) and is, therefore, easier to relate to than a doctor. The volunteer is also likely to have more time to listen and chat to the patient. One study showed that volunteers could even reduce depression in patients.
Reduced burden on carers
Having somebody to support carers can be of huge value to them. It reduces the strain on the carer and helps them to carry on effectively with their caring duties.
One study showed that patients who were about to go through a medical procedure were less anxious when they could talk to a volunteer who had been through the same procedure themselves.
Longer survival times for hospice patients
“Hospice patients who have a volunteer making social visits live a month longer on average than those who don’t,” says Dr Casiday. “This is amazing considering how unwell people are in a hospice setting.”
An increase in breastfeeding and childhood immunisation
Studies of young or disadvantaged mothers show that volunteers, either through telephone hotlines or home visits, provide peer support and help to educate them about breastfeeding and vaccinations. Volunteers could also have an influence on how often the children are taken for their standard health checks.
Improved clinic attendance and taking of medicines
Having someone there who can help and be a mediator with the doctors can improve the chances of a patient following their treatments and attending their appointments.
How can I volunteer?
There are volunteering opportunities all over the UK, in a range of different settings. To find one near you, visit any of the sites below:
Give for mental well-being
Most people would agree that giving to others is a good thing. On top of this, it can also improve your mental well-being.
Small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones – such as volunteering in your local community – can give you a sense of purpose. It can make you feel happier and more satisfied with life.
Sometimes, we think of wellbeing in terms of what we have: our income, our home or car, or our job. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on mental wellbeing.
Positive mental wellbeing means feeling good – about yourself and the world around you – and being able to get on with life in the way you want.
Helping and supporting other people, and working with others towards a shared goal, is good for our mental well-being.
How giving helps your mental well being
Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness – small and large – are associated with positive mental well-being.
Giving to others and co-operating with them can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, creating positive feelings.
Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.
Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones. Relationships with others also help mental wellbeing.
How you can give more
Giving can take lots of different forms, from small everyday acts to larger commitments.
Today, you could:
- Say thank you to someone, for something they’ve done for you.
- Phone a relative or friend who needs support or company.
- Ask a colleague how they are and really listen to the answer.
- Offer to lend a hand if you see a stranger struggling with bags or a pushchair.
This week, you could:
- Arrange a day out for you and a friend or relative.
- Offer to help a relative with DIY or a colleague with a work project.
- Sign up to a mentoring project, in which you give time and support to someone who will benefit from it.
- Volunteer in your local community, such as helping out at a local school, hospital or care home. Find out how to volunteer.
More steps for wellbeing
Giving is one of five evidence-based steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing.
Learn more about the other four:
- Connecting for mental wellbeing
- Getting active for mental wellbeing
- Learning for mental wellbeing
- Mindfulness for mental wellbeing