Voluntary work has long been considered an altruistic activity that is purely intended to promote good or improve the quality of life of other members within a community.
Personally, I get a lot of satisfaction from volunteering, even more so considering there is no financial gain whatsoever…but lending a helping hand goes far beyond that. It is pretty understandable that with our busy lives, it can be quite difficult to dedicate time to volunteering. However, there are a lot of benefits radiating from this noble act.
One of the commonly-known benefits of voluntary work is the massive impact on a variety of communities. Unpaid volunteers are often referred to as the ‘heartbeat of society’ or the ‘glue that holds non-governmental organizations’ together. It is only once you embark on such an amazing journey, you will begin to realize that even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people… (or animals!).
Having said this, engaging in voluntary work can also benefit you directly in many ways. To start with, it aids in broadening your support networks and in boosting your social skills. Moreover, as many studies have demonstrated, helping others kindles happiness so it is not very surprising that volunteering also serves as a boost to your mental health. In fact, this type of work has been proven to reduce the risk of depression through combating social isolation as well as reduction of stress and anxiety. It also helps in providing a better perception of self-worth, as well as in developing a significant sense of pride and accomplishment in life.
Ultimately, volunteering can serve as a huge investment to both your personal and professional development, for it empowers you with renewed creativity, constant motivation and a superb sense of vision. There is probably ample need to highlight the fact that it is in itself a great opportunity to practice important skills such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving, project planning and task management.
Above all, voluntary work can be thought of an energizing escape from your daily routine…so I definitely recommend you start searching around for opportunities to do some good, both on a local or on an international level. However, don’t limit yourself to just one organization or a specific type of role. From my previous experiences I can confirm that sometimes an opportunity will look great on paper but in reality, it turns out to be quite different from what you initially expected. Remember, you will be donating your valuable time, so it’s vital that you ultimately enjoy what you are doing.
When it comes to missionary work, the first advantage, is that it has provided me with an intensive opportunity to use my professional skills, to serve and teach people in another culture. I have impacted the lives of countless people, and personally, I have also realized some changes in myself, too. Primarily, materialism starts to fade away. After seeing how little others may have, it really puts things in perspective. It made me re-evaluate priorities in my life. Moreover, seeing how happy others can be with whatever they have, blossoms a heart of gratitude for the many blessings we already have.
Secondly, I have extended my horizons, widened my view of the world, and opened my eyes to another way of living. I have learnt first-hand, that many issues are not black and white, but rather monochromous shades of grey. Thirdly, I have learnt to appreciate different cultures. I have learnt so much about how others live, but above all, I have also learnt to slow down. As Europeans, we thrive on keeping busy. Smartphones beg for our attention and social media drives our interactions with the world. During a mission, you get to disconnect from this hectic way of living. Although in the first few days one might suffer from withdrawal, I had probably found such disconnection refreshing in the long run.
If you have ever felt a calling into trying this life-changing experience, I encourage you to give it a go! I am sure you will also have plenty of memories to re-live: the funny, the misfortunate, the heartfelt and the miraculous.
Upon finding your perfect combination, always bear in mind that the most valuable skills to a fruitful volunteering experience are compassion, an open-mind, a warm heart and above all, willingness to carry out your role via a positive, caring and empathic approach.