According to Volunteer.ie, volunteers in Ireland have contributed over 470,000 hours and over €10 million to the economy (www.volunteer.ie/resources/volunteering-statistics). Volunteering opportunities are wide and diverse, so there is pretty much something for everyone.
I imagine if you surveyed a sample of these volunteers, they would not think about the hours or the money though. So what motivates volunteers to sign up and turn up week in week out? I haven’t surveyed a sample reliable enough to answer that question, but I can share some of my own experiences.
Depending on the charity you volunteer for, your volunteering activities may tap into a range of existing skills and indeed develop some new ones! Here are seven things my volunteering has done for me:
We are typically creatures of habit, so whether it’s at home or at work, we often default into our comfort zones, doing the things we are best at, the things we like. I think continuously challenging ourselves to act in our stretch zone is an important part of our growth and volunteering can help here. You often arrive without the baggage and labels of your day to day life and get a chance to put your hand up for a new activity.
Volunteers, and the communities they serve come from all walks of life. You will get the chance to work with people across age and interest ranges which can be a really interesting part of the experience. You’ll get the chance to take on a new role in this team. Maybe you’re in a leadership role at work and will enjoy being a follower for a change. I do, but I have had fantastic leadership at the charities I volunteer for and have learned a lot from their style.
My volunteer time is spent with children and young adults, many of whom are living with a serious illness. Meeting these children and young adults and their families sets the greatest perspective on my own life. I worry less, have a greater sense of priorities and make time for what I believe is really important in my life. I have a lot to be thankful for.
I have definitely grown as a person and continue to develop each and every time I volunteer. I think I become more confident, gain a greater perspective on the world, find new and different ways to have fun, meet wonderful people, calm down, learn greater coping skills. I discover new skills and enjoy sharing some old ones!
Most of the time when I’m volunteering, I only get to check my phone in the morning and late at night. Taking time away from our devices means we are truly present in the time we spend with the children, young adults and their families.
While this took a little being of getting used to in the beginning, I now look forward to this down time. When I get back to the world of connectivity, I try to keep up these good habits …
Most people who sign up to volunteer, do so because they are passionate about the cause. This leads to inclusivity – show a modicum of interest and they’ll take you under their wing and bring you on the journey. I have often started a stint of volunteering with a bunch of strangers to emerge a couple of days later with some new lifelong friends.
Regardless of the cause you sign up for, volunteering is ultimately about kindness and generosity. By giving yourself (your time, your skills, a pair of hands or some listening ears) in the service of others, you are preforming a very kind act that is a real win-win for both you and the service user.
If you have ever had a hankering to volunteer, I’d really encourage you to go ahead and try it. For me, it’s been a privilege and a reward words cannot encapsulate, more than any salary can ever pay.
24th August, by Tara Grehan