You might already be an active and a passionate volunteer or you might have that passion and interest yet find it hard to volunteer with busy schedules or simply you do not have any interest in volunteering. Yet the concept of “Volunteerism” plays a vital part in the day to day life of all of us. Generally “Volunteering” is an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial gain “to benefit another person, group or an organization”. Since 1600, where volunteering was considered as a military participation, to now, it is known as an activity which benefits both the volunteer as well as the served people or communities in improving quality of life. Today volunteerism varies to several categories:
1.) Volunteering as service-learning programs – Many educational levels use volunteering as a service learning program for their students as they gain intelligence, experience, skills and commitment to address human and community needs while acquiring an education which involves both heart and mind.
2.) Skill based Volunteering – Using your specialized skills and talents in serving people and communities. (Play your guitar, teach aerobics to adults or give lessons to kids )
3.) Volunteering in developing countries- This is a popular and a trending type of volunteering(for developed countries) which mainly focuses on fields such as teaching English, assisting local NGOs, working at orphanages etc. in developing countries.
4.) Virtual Volunteering- Technology has made volunteering a possibility for busy heads as well. Online volunteering/ e-volunteering can be used for many cyber services such as mentoring and tutoring.
5.) Environmental Volunteering- Activities such as ecological restoration, environmental monitoring, saving endangered animals, building dialogues and educating others on environmental issues can be categorized under this.
6.) Volunteering in an emergency- Volunteering plays a crucial role at the times of natural disasters and in their recovery efforts. (Oh yes, we all have experience )
7.) Cooperate Volunteering – Not much supported in Sri Lanka but in other countries, where employees are given an allowance of paid time off annually which they can use for volunteering of their choice. They have their own Employee Volunteering Programs and Employer Supported Volunteering programs. ( Now these are the real deeds we should learn and initiate)
8.) Community Volunteering- Basically to improve your local community through local clubs and societies and religious institutions.
Likewise “Volunteering” is universal. When I asked “the best thing about volunteering” from many activists, their answers included self-satisfaction, making others’ lives better, making new friends, having new experiences etc. and the list was long. Studies and experts have pointed out many benefits of volunteering. They say it helps to live a long healthy life as it improves both physical and psychological well-being. It also helps to establish strong relationships which will help you in your social life as well as in your career life and this is brought out as a key solution for the increasing population of lonely senior citizens. And also volunteering ameliorates the society and it gives you the sense of purpose which will make you think as a responsible human.
It may seem as there are no downsides for volunteering. Yes, it is fully rewarding as long as you keep these factors on mind. To start off, if you are a passionate and a keen volunteer you might take part in every possible project which is truly admirable. But once you are recognized as a valuable asset by the organizations you will be encouraged to do more which will lead you to scheduling issues with personal obligations. So it is very important to clearly emphasize your capacity of commitment. Setting boundaries is known as a necessary evil in volunteering world. And for some volunteers engaging in emotionally affecting work will make them stressful and anxious which will impact their day to day lives. So again it is important to know your capacity and volunteer without giving negative influence to yourself as it is important for you to be happy before making others happy. Another factor is the frustration volunteers face when others do not share their passion as much as they do and when society does not give enough value for their commitment. So it is better if you consider it as a selfless act and do not expect any high recognition back.
Regardless of all the pros and cons, “Volunteering” is not just about standing for serious global issues but it can also be the simplest random act of kindness, just like offering a seat for a senior citizen in public transportation and spending some quality time with orphan children, as mentioned by a truly amazing youth activist in a workshop I participated. It can be effective in personal, local or international development. It can be your education, experience or enthusiasm. It can be an unexpected situation, a habit or a life style. And that is why you should make “volunteering” a significant part of your day to day life.