Why should I volunteer? I’m glad this question is not asked as frequently as it used to be before. Volunteering being equated to doing good and feeling good; people are more or less convinced that volunteering is good and that they would want to do it, if they get a chance.
Now this “if they get a chance” more often than not keeps this desire of volunteering from becoming a reality. In an earlier article, I wrote that volunteering is being selfish and here I would like to prove just that. The idea of “Giving is Receiving” is never more tested than while volunteering.
A student, a homemaker or a professional – volunteering is the best life skills teacher you can get. There is no prerequisite for volunteering except for a commitment. Once committed volunteering can help you hone your existing or learn newer skills. Meenakshi, who was on a sabbatical from her stressful banking job turned to volunteering to keep herself busy. She used to teach a visually challenged youth mathematics. She didn’t know the A-B-C of teaching a visually challenged but she took it upon herself as a challenge. She researched on Internet and tried different ways of explain to Raju. Today Raju has cleared his MCA exam and Meenakshi has learnt to more patient as well as innovative in everyday life.
Face the Reality
For me volunteering was a big reality check. Most often we live in protected worlds; we see poverty from our car windows but it’s not us; we give our maids that old discarded saree and the leftover food every day; we feel we’ve done our part. But that’s exactly what volunteered showed me. When I was doing an article on human trafficking and volunteered with NGOs working with children of victims; I was in for a big shock. The sheer magnitude left me dumbstruck that it’s not something that happens to someone else, at someplace else; but it’s happening right in my backyard.
Voluntourism recently has gained a lot of prominence among travelers and volunteers alike. It offers the unique opportunity to see a place as an insider; live with locals and get access to many behind-the-scene activities in an area. This video shows how Ismat Abidi and other volunteers traveled across with NGO Ecosphere and helped build a greenhouse for Kungri Monastery in Pin, Valley, Spiti ( a remote and cold Indian valley, bordering Tibet)
You Tube video link: Volunteering with Spiti Ecosphere in the Himalayas
A sense of accomplishment
Feeling good; giving back to society; recognition – all have their roots in our personal desire for a sense of accomplishment. That smile on the child’s face after reading him a story; the sparkle in the elderly’s eyes after you have spent just about an hour listening to her; the satisfaction of putting the last book on the library project for a school are just some examples.
Friendships and networks
Volunteering is a great way of meeting new people, especially in a new place. My husband was once posted in Scotland for a short assignment and I accompanied him there. My usual day wasn’t very exciting as he was more often than not in office and I didn’t know anyone in my locality. Moreover it was winter, so people usually stayed indoors. One day when I was roaming in the market, I saw a ‘Save the children’ charity shop. I walked in and thereafter every day was an excitement. Volunteering in a shop also meant that I got to meet lots of new people and the regular volunteers with Save the Children everyday. I left Scotland with lots of friends and memories.
Yes volunteering is taxing; it takes up your time, energy and more often than not also money. Even then, here are 5 reasons why you should still volunteer! I think, everyone needs to answer this question for himself/ herself on a first hand basis. Here are some responses for “I volunteer for..” from some volunteers. Don’t think too much, just take the plunge and then add your experience here to inspire more :). Check out How to volunteer to get more ideas.
Are you a volunteer? Why do you volunteer? How does volunteering benefit you? We would love to read!