I fondly remember making tissue paper flowers as a child for our local community Mexican Fiesta. My small hands delicately pulled the tissue paper toward the center. The thin, colorful sheets crinkled as they separated. The flat, fan-folded stacks transformed into three-dimensional vibrant, fluffy domes.
After we carefully constructed dozens of colorful tissue paper flowers, they were transported to the location of the event and used to decorate the fundraising booths. My family organized the taco booth. Our efforts, familial and communal, helped raise funds for Latino/a youth to pursue higher education.
My early participation in service activities cultivated empathy and instilled in me the value of community and helping others. Now, I have included my children in volunteer activities with Project Giving Kids. Together, we benefit!
Volunteerism is the practice of working voluntarily, meaning that you spend energy, time, and/or resources toward achieving a common goal. The work is unpaid and by choice. Nonprofit organizations rely on this work to help meet the needs of the communities that they serve. It is easy to see how the communities benefit from volunteerism, but research shows that volunteers benefit too!
Here are four ways that you benefit from volunteering:
1. It’s good for your health.
Numerous studies show the positive physical and mental health benefits of volunteering. Volunteers live longer! Many experience cardiovascular benefits, increased physical activity, and fewer aches and pains. These effects are not limited to adults. Teens benefit too!
The mental health benefits that volunteers experience include a greater sense of wellbeing, lower rates of depression, increased self-esteem, and a reported reduction in stress levels. These benefits are closely related to the social connections fostered by volunteering. According to the longest study on human development, healthy relationships keep us happier and healthier.
2. Volunteering helps build relationships and create connections.
Volunteering provides an opportunity to meet ne
w people who share common interests, develop new friendships, and strengthen social networks. The social interactions involved in volunteer work support the development of social skills. Volunteering provides opportunities for teamwork and communication with people from diverse backgrounds. The ability to work with diverse groups of people is necessary in today’s world.
Additionally, volunteering as a family provides an opportunity to see each other’s strengths and to strengthen familial bonds. It can even improve family functioning.
Helpful tips for volunteering as a family include:
- Make it personally meaningful. Choose service activities that interest your child or family.
- Choose activities that are fun and easy! Make it a pleasurable experience for all.
- Choose activities that allow younger children to see the impact.
- Schedule it.
- Invite others to join you.
3. It helps develop new skills.
Volunteer work not only provides the opportunity to practice social skills but it can help develop skills that may benefit you in the workplace. You can learn new skills and build on existing ones, like problem-solving, leadership, organization, time and task management.
Volunteering helps expose you to new fields of work, increases employment opportunities, improves academic performance, and provides formal and informal learning opportunities.
4. It’s fun and fulfilling!
Volunteering gives one a sense of purpose and empowerment. It provides an opportunity to be creative and explore issues that you care about. Social issues can seem overwhelming but volunteering allows you to do something about it.
It feels good to help others! We are hard-wired for it. Even though we have an innate need to help, it must be nurtured. Volunteering as a family is one way to nurture empathy and altruism.
While volunteering during a pandemic might seem daunting due to the potential exposure risks and restrictions, using technology as a platform you can still help you reap the benefits and stay connected.
Project Giving Kids has been a valuable resource for our family to continue our volunteer efforts during this time! Together, we benefit.