The Benefits of Volunteering

There are many reasons why people choose to volunteer their time to an organization they appreciate. Those reasons can include the desire to help nonprofits succeed, make a difference in the world, or even just the idea of learning a new skill.

The truth of the matter is that volunteering comes with many benefits. Some of those benefits are for the individuals helping out, while many others go toward the organization in need. Here are just a few of the ways that volunteering can make a difference.

Developing New Skills

This may surprise many, but volunteering can and will teach a person new skills. These skills can then be used in a multitude of ways, from work experience to personal advancement.

Provides a Sense of Purpose

Gaining a sense of purpose is probably one of the more common reasons why people volunteer – even if they don’t realize it at the time. The idea of joining something more significant and extraordinary is powerful and something that nearly every human desires.

Building a Community

Volunteer work has been known to help build and strengthen communities, as confirmed by the Corporation for National & Community Service. This happens on both a macro and micro scale. On the one hand, the community as a whole is strengthened. On the other hand, individual volunteers improve their networks as they come together.

Boost Self-Esteem

To put it simply: volunteering feels good. Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that volunteering can improve self-esteem. This means that a person can simultaneously help their community and themselves at the same time.

Gaining Experience

Volunteering can provide valuable experiences, many of which can be applied to in a work environment. Volunteering can be included on a resume and is often something that management may look for, especially in a relevant field.

Physical Health Opportunities

Many of the volunteer opportunities out there are at least somewhat physically demanding. While this may sound intimidating to some, what it really means is that this is yet another opportunity to achieve more goals. A person can get exercise and do good at the same time.

Reduces Certain Risks

According to Medical Press, people who actively volunteer may be at a lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, studies from the Journal of Gerontology help support this statement by showing that social service improves elasticity in the brain. This, in turn, can help prevent certain health conditions down the line. 

 

Invisible Disabilities

Alan Rasof Invisible DisabilitiesEvery so often, an article circulates about some horrible citizen who parked in a handicap spot and exhibited no need to. Often accompanied by secret smartphone footage and quiet snide commentary, the outrage usually emerges because there is no visible evidence that someone is suffering from a disability. As it turns out, though, there are countless invisible disabilities that could render an otherwise simple trip to the grocery store excruciatingly difficult or painful.

Invisible disabilities include those that impair the individual from navigating life as comfortably as those with fully-functional bodies, but whose handicaps may not be as obvious. Take, for example, someone with severe hearing loss. Or someone with “burning syndrome,” a nervous disorder that renders the person extremely sensitive to any touch so much so that their skin feels on fire all the time. Those people still need a little extra help as they traverse the world, but a passerby would have no idea.

For a long time, invisible disabilities were treated as either totally hallucinated or as miracles from God. For long stretches of human history, women could be diagnosed with “hysteria,” when in fact they were dealing with something that today we would call depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Many who suffered from what we call epilepsy were thought to be prophets — the “dreams” they had were trademarks of the cognitive disorders associated with epileptic episodes, and some even think that Joan of Arc herself suffered from epilepsy.

One woman in Boston recently wrote about her difficulty riding the train to and from locations because of an autoimmune disease that eats away at her tendons, making mobility difficult and terribly painful. For some time, it was awkward for her to ask strangers to cough up their seats for someone who appears to be perfectly healthy, but then she began using a cane and slowly mustering the courage to verbally ask people if she could sit in their chair.

Today, though, we have a much better understanding of the physical and cognitive disabilities that may not be as obvious as missing legs or speech impediment. Our ability to accommodate such people, however, is still in the works.  
Towards the end of last year, England rolled out a program for their public transport in which some passengers wore small blue campaign pins that read, “Please Offer Me a Seat.” London offered these free buttons to 1000 riders with invisibilities so that they didn’t have to feel so awkward asking for a seat on the subways. After a few months, the city counted the experiment a total success, with more than three quarters of the button-donning passengers reporting that their riding experience had indeed improved.