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Volunteering can have a positive impact on our health.

Why do people volunteer?

“Volunteering is the second greatest source of individual joy- close after dancing.”  At least according to the Slough Volunteer Center in the United Kingdom it is.  Personally, I’m not sure how true that is, but volunteering does bring a sense of joy and accomplishment.  So is that why people volunteer?  Are they looking for a sense of accomplishment or are there other reasons that push people to give back?

As someone who has spent the past 11 months as both a volunteer and a volunteer coordinator I have asked those questions a lot, to both myself and others.  In my opinion, volunteers are looking to have a positive impact on others while also benefitting themselves in some way.  In no way am I trying to say that volunteers are selfish, they are not.  They donate a great deal of time and energy for no tangible reward.  But they do get something out of giving back that helps drive them to continue volunteering. For me, it was a matter of experience. 

As a recent college graduate looking for a job was overwhelming.  Spending a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, a Volunteer in Service to America seemed like a great way to get some real life experience and kick-start a career in the not for profit world.  I want to make a difference while also learning new skills. While many are looking for some sort of work experience, experience in itself is not the only factor that drives someone to volunteer.  I have worked with high school students who have required volunteer hours for graduation, corporate groups who are looking for team building opportunities, parents who are looking to open their children’s eyes to someone else’s plight, retired folks looking to stay active, Wichita transplants looking to become more involved in the community, and college students looking to network.

While a good resume booster, volunteering allows one to develop a number of different personal skills as well.  Volunteering can help people stay active and socialize with others. It provides a unique opportunity to become involved within a certain group or the community at large.  For some individuals it allows them to share a particular skill with others or it allows them to develop a new skill that needs some work.  For groups, it helps to build communication and teamwork.  Most of all however, it shows others that you care.

Despite all the “life skills” volunteering helps to develop, giving of yourself also has a positive impact on your health as well.  The social connections that are formed when volunteering can help us deal with stress in a more positive way.  It forces you to get out and interact with others.   Giving back to others helps us to feel important and gives us a sense of purpose that can lead to higher self-confidence.  It helps us to feel connected to a larger group or cause.  Volunteering tends to give people an over-all sense of happiness that has been linked to living longer. In the end, the purpose of volunteering is to benefit both the volunteer and the population that they are serving.  It has a positive impact on more than just the individual serving.  Volunteering in the classroom with kids helps you but also benefits the kids.  It gives them a change of pace, a new face to interact with while also providing the staff with an extra set of hands. 

Weeding or building a shade structure saves Rainbows money, instead of paying a landscaping company or contractor we can invest that money into the services we provide. Moral of the story- get out there and volunteer!

Written by Rainbows Volunteer Coordinator, Carol Giblin. Check out Carol’s Story here.