Volunteering is more than just giving up your time – it’s a rewarding experience that can be life-changing. When you volunteer, you spark a chain of positive reactions for both yourself and the people you impact. Volunteering with children and young people is one of the most fulfilling contributions you can make because you have the opportunity to positively influence their attitudes and aspirations. As a volunteer, you’re also cultivating for yourself a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Ultimately, looking outwards into the world and recognising the needs of others will broaden your own perspective on life. Are you ready to make a difference?
Improve your mental wellbeing
Mental health is just as important as physical health. When you want to improve your physical health, you might join a gym, start going for walks or make changes to your diet. When it comes to mental health, people report success using meditation or limiting time spent on social media – but what about volunteering? Giving back to your community or going out of your way to help others is a proven way to positively change your state of mind.
In a recent UK survey, people from the world of work who volunteered in schools were asked how their experience had contributed to their overall wellbeing. Eighty-eight percent of volunteers noted that their motivation in day-to-day life outside of work had improved, with 77% of volunteers having increased motivation at work itself (Percy and Rogers, 2020). Knowing that you’re valued as a volunteer, as an employee and as a person will impact how you think and feel about yourself. Improved mental wellbeing will then have flow-on effects into other areas of your life.
Make a difference in a young person’s life
Do you remember what it was like to have a role model as a child? The person who, in your small eyes, could do no wrong? Everything from the words they spoke and the clothes they wore, to their actions and behaviours, your young mind perceived as no less than remarkable. Think of who inspired you as a child – it might be a parent, another whānau member, a sports coach or a teacher. The unfortunate reality is that many children and young people aren’t lucky enough to have a role model. For a variety of reasons, they may lack the inspirational figure needed to show them the breadth of possibilities that life has to offer.
Countless studies have shown a direct correlation between a child’s development and having a positive role model in their life, particularly in relation to education and career aspirations. In one study, a female scientist gave an hour-long presentation about science-related careers to a group of female school students. Following this, the probability that a female student would enrol in a male-dominated STEM course in university increased by 20% (Kearney and Levine, 2020). Representation is everything, and children will believe what they can see. Knowing there are adults out there who look like them and are doing exciting, inspirational and interesting work can broaden their career horizons and aspirations. Volunteering your time to be a role model can ultimately change a young person’s life – it’s as simple as giving up a small portion of your day to impact these children forever.
Advance your own career
Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity to take up a new experience and develop a range of important skills. As a great addition to your CV, volunteering gives potential employers an insight into your character and what you stand for by showing your passion, generosity and work ethic. Research conducted by the UK-based charity Education and Employers found that specifically volunteering in education can increase an employee’s skills and competencies, which in turn creates higher productivity and career gains. The research reported that over 80% of volunteers saw benefits for communication, influencing and relationship skills, while over a third stated that volunteering encouraged them to apply for more senior roles (Percy and Rogers, 2021). Volunteering may be the opportunity you need to explore your different abilities and further develop your skill set – all of which can help you reach your potential both professionally and personally.
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do for both yourself and others. As a volunteer, you’re making a commitment to improving your mental wellbeing and growing your skill set – both of which are important steps to take as you progress at work and in life. Perhaps the most significant benefit of all is the profound impact you may have on another person’s life, especially that of a child or young person. Where many children and young people aren’t lucky enough to have a role model in their lives, you have an opportunity to step up and volunteer to be that someone. You will be the person who, in their small eyes, is no less than remarkable – are you ready to make a difference?
Kearney MS, Levine PB. 2020. Role Models, Mentors, and Media Influences. The Future of Children 30(1): 83-106.
Percy C, Rogers M. 2020. Working Well: How volunteering to help young people also boosts volunteers’ wellbeing. Retrieved from https://www.educationandemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Working-Well-How-volunteering-to-help-young-people-also-boosts-volunteers%E2%80%99-wellbeing.pdf (24 March 2021).
Percy C, Rogers M. 2021. The Value of Volunteering: Volunteering in Education and Productivity at Work. Retrieved from https://www.educationandemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/The-Value-of-Volunteering-final-8th-Jan-2021-1.pdf (26 March 2021).