As a seventeen-year-old living on the internet, between the news, the misinformation and the memes, I have come across my fair share of publications about anything and everything but something that really sticks out to me every time I see it, are posts about how our planet is dying and people are hungry all around the world. Certainly, I am not opposed to these opinions, species are going extinct, the environment is polluted to the point of almost no return and extreme poverty is a reality for a grave amount of people. However, this whole movement is encouraging a phenomenon called “slacktivism”.
Slacktivism: the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.
In order for you to be reading this right now, it means that you are actually interested in volunteer work and probably not a part of the definition above. Or even if you are, it annoys you or you want to go against the masses, both of which are great (and not the only possible) motivations towards pragmatically taking action. But maybe some readers are not that easily convinced, so here is some extra information about the real pros of volunteer work.
To begin with, by volunteering you are making a change in the world. It sounds generic, I know, but I don't think we think about it in depth for this very reason. Either by volunteering in animal shelters, running a cause-centred marathon, joining a scout group or distributing lunches with your local church once in a while, you are showing a good example to the younger generations, doing something that is good for yourself including the above reasons and you are helping a planet and a society in need. You are becoming the change that the world is asking for, even if you don't understand how such a small contribution as yours could have a big impact, so much to other people as well as on the world you live in. Even by donating once in a while to a charity of your choice (40ocean is one of my favourites), you are aiding a cause and giving back to your cosmic home while maintaining it for the next generations.
Secondly, volunteering improves your health. As weird as it might seem, volunteerism strengthens the body, improves your mood and lessens your stress. There have been a number of studies from respected institutions that say volunteering can be good for your health. One study from Ghent University stated: “Volunteers are as healthy as 5 years younger non-volunteers." Even people with serious illnesses reported improved health following what’s sometimes known as volunteer therapy. Also by the act of helping a cause, helping someone that is in need reduces stress and depression.
Finally, by engaging in volunteer work you are doing a favour to your CV. As I can fathom, many of you reading are in the age range of middle to high schoolers, meaning that most of you are preparing your CVs at the time speaking. By doing volunteer work you are guaranteed to add a very impressive element to your CV. In fact, 60% of hiring managers see the act of volunteerism as a valuable asset when making recruitment decisions according to a study performed by 'CareerBuilder'. Meanwhile, Those who volunteer regularly have a 27% better chance of gaining employment.
If you are reading this now, it means that the above arguments were properly structured in order to grab your attention (thanks A-Level History) and gravitate you towards volunteer work. The problem is where to volunteer, the biggest hurdle anyone could face. Well, to make your journey easier I have some suggested steps.
Step 1: Clarify your values
Make a list of the charities and organisations you want to support according to your preferences and interests as not everything is for everyone. If you are more compassionate and empathetic with people you could consider an organisation that distributes food to poor people. If you are more concerned about the animal kingdom you could have an animal shelter near you as a possible choice. If instead, you are more engaged with helping the environment, you could be eligible for a beach cleaning organisation or similar causes.
Step 2: Find your organisation
Once you decide what kind of charity you’re looking for, narrow down your options with research in your local area by booklets, through the internet or, if you live in America, you could use GuideStar search to narrow your options. This site helps you find information on the nonprofits you’re interested in volunteering for by the state, cause area, nonprofit profile participation level, and more.
Step 3: Discover Their Commitment to Transparency
When you narrow down your options you should conduct your research on the websites of these non-profits in order to better understand their aim and how they approach the cause they work for. Reading peer reviews and leverage is also a way to ensure the best volunteer experience.
After all those steps are complete you can make your application on the organisations' site or go for an interview depending on the non-profit you chose. Working for an organisation is not always the case for volunteering as you can also invest your free time in free-volunteering activities done by your own conscience. Grabbing two friends and going to clean the nearest beach or park off rubbish can be a fun outdoor activity for all of you. Joining a scouts group can also be an eligible choice if you have good communication skills and you would also like to discover the treasures of nature near you while volunteering, or if you want to volunteer in more than one area at the same time.
Personally, I have been a scout since the age of 6 and, while we are not doing volunteer work exclusively, when we engage in such actions I always get emotional because I know that I am putting a smile on someone’s face, saving the life of an animal or preserving the beauty of a beach by ridding her of trash so that other people can enjoy it again. Even outside the scouts, during school visits to nursing homes and adoption centres, it always warmed my heart bringing happiness and care to someone deprived of it, even just for a few hours. I believe it has moulded me as a person to always try and offer help to anyone that needs it and helped me look at the world not as a doomed polluted dystopia but as a work in progress that can be brought to life, even more, should we all put in a small effort.
In conclusion, volunteering is for everyone that is in the mood to engage with it. If you put your heart into a cause you want to support you could be making a change to your life, the people around you and -as a matter of fact- to the world as a whole. Find what you stall for and be the first step, the one that will influence the people around you to join you and do the same, as every action counts.
"Be the change you want to see in the world"