Let’s Resolve to Make a Difference: Why volunteering should matter to YOU
24th Jan 2018
Charities spend considerable time and effort explaining why volunteering matters for the people they support, however showcasing the benefits for volunteers themselves is often overlooked. A recent article in the Guardian by Volunteering Matters highlighted the value of volunteering and it inspired us to share our top five benefits of volunteering for volunteers:
- A greater sense of life-purpose
We all get up and go to work each day and are guilty of being self-absorbed with our work and family lives, but how about feeling like you have a greater sense of purpose – one that touches the lives of others around you in a positive way? Volunteering is an opportunity to switch your focus, put others before yourself and partake in activities that make a difference, all while improving your self-worth by doing something self-less.
- Social cohesion in your community
Over the last decade plenty has been written about ‘big society’ and our collective responsibility to do more to solve society’s problems and improve the lives of those around us. Volunteering is a powerful enabler of social cohesion as it connects people and brings communities together, stimulates friendships, unites people of different cultures, religions and walks of life, combats loneliness and isolation and builds positive communities.
- Personal wellbeing
Connected to our first point about life-purpose, spending time helping others and being generous with your time can help to boost self-confidence and establish new relationships, both of which contribute to personal wellbeing, particularly in relation to mental health. As the Mental Health Foundation says, ‘doing good does you good’ and studies have shown that volunteering has a favourable impact on depression, happiness and wellbeing, especially where sociability is a key aspect of the volunteering role.
- New skills and opportunities
Opportunities to expand your mind don’t have to be constrained to your work, they can come from social projects on your doorstep too. Whether it’s befriending the elderly or working with vulnerable children, volunteering can develop new skills and unlock new experiences.
The things learned through volunteering might be soft skills such as patience or empathy, or something more specific such as first aid, computer skills or even a care qualification – all of which can be transferrable to other areas of your life. They might improve management skills at work, demonstrate the experience needed to embark on a new career or simply make you a better neighbour or friend.
Learning new skills makes you a more interesting person, helps to combat boredom and stagnation and makes you more adaptable in the face of change.
- You’re making a positive difference to another person
Ok so it sounds obvious – but volunteering can have a direct impact on individual lives. At NYAS, our volunteers are matched with individual children and young people with whom they visit regularly and build a bond. It’s because of this personal and direct relationship that our volunteers can see the very tangible difference their time and effort is making to one particular young life. That’s powerful.
The Guardian article also highlights that volunteering has an ‘image problem’ and that those most likely to benefit from becoming volunteers are often the least likely to do so, due to issues such as lack of transport, poverty, wider families responsibilities, perceived lack of time and poor health. It’s clear that the solution certainly requires a more joined-up approach between charities, community groups, health care authorities and government, but we also need the nation’s volunteering community to really champion their causes, tell their stories and highlight how volunteering benefits them personally. Volunteering delivers positive social change but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking it’s all about giving back – it’s just as much about investing in ourselves too.
During 2017 we matched 360 volunteers with vulnerable children and young people living in care throughout England and Wales as part of our Independent Visitors programme. That’s 360 young lives that are changing for the better and 360 volunteers who are learning new skills, contributing to their communities, investing in themselves and helping to shape future generations too.
For a charity like NYAS, our volunteers are essential. Often the only non-paid and consistent person in these young lives, our volunteer Independent Visitors offer friendship, stability, guidance, normality and fun to the most vulnerable. In return for their commitment we provide a huge amount of support, training and mentoring so that they can get the best outcome for the children and young people they support, as well as themselves.
We know that volunteering can change young lives for the better – we also know it could make a real difference to you too. The question is, do you and will you join NYAS’ volunteer community?
Find out more about becoming a volunteer with NYAS here: https://www.nyas.net/services/independent-visitors/