It was the St George’s Day Parade in York on Sunday. Both of my children were marching with their uniformed groups. I have to say, I felt quite emotional watching them.
There were around 2000 people involved in the parade. Hearing the marching bands got me – I’ve always been a brass band lover. Seeing and hearing them playing with the children brought a tear to my eye.
Another reason for my emotion was appreciating just how many adults had given up their time for these young people. They give it, willingly and freely, week in and week out.
After Guides I became a Young Leader and helped out with my old Brownie pack. I have been volunteering for different organisations in one way or another since then. Volunteering has taught me so much, and has made a big difference to how I feel about myself. Here are six reasons why volunteering is good for you:
1. Volunteering is good for your health. When we take the focus away from our own problems, our stress levels can be reduced and depression lifted. This can also help us to feel healthier in our bodies. If we are doing some sort of physical volunteering, such as dry stone walling for a local National Trust property, we will also see our fitness levels improved.
2. Volunteering helps you to connect with other people. Even if you are only offering your time for a couple of hours once a month, you will be building up relationships with others. Having a shared sense of purpose helps to make friends and improve your interpersonal skills. I can’t guarantee that you will meet your significant other through volunteering, but it isn’t unheard of. You will certainly make some new friends.
3. It improves your sense of self-worth. Think about what makes you happy. Do you like working with young people? Or talking to people about your interests? Try to match up what you love doing with where there is a need in your local community. If you like to see the fruits of your labour, volunteering in a community garden may be for you.
4. Giving to others in this way can help you to pay forward. It is not always possible to give back to others who have helped you in the past. Doing the same for others in the future ensures that this cycle continues. Your contribution encourages others to do the same. Both the staff and parents on the post-natal ward where I support with breastfeeding are often surprised that I do it for free. Once things have improved for mothers, they often like to help others in this way.
5. It helps you to prioritise what is important to you. Would you like to make a difference in your community? Do you like to improve the lives of others? Doing something for someone else without payment helps you to work out what is important to you. It can also help with your career. You will learn new skills in various areas, and employers find volunteering an attractive asset on your CV. This can be empowering during times when we are not working, such as when women are on maternity leave.
6. Volunteering is rewarding. If your motivations are right, you will get so much more out than you expect. If you are constantly thinking about what your reward is, you may find that you don’t enjoy yourself very much. However, if you throw yourself right in and focus on what you are doing, you will reap the benefits in so many ways. Helping one person may not change the world, but it could change the world for one person.
I’d love to hear your experiences of volunteering.
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