The purpose of this study was to examine the questions of “Who benefits from volunteers’ efforts”, “Is volunteering still volunteering when it is a requirement for any type of achievement”, and “Why are volunteers beneficial to society”. It examines the benefits of volunteering on both sides of the spectrum, whether one does it for personal gain or societal progression.
Keywords: volunteers, experiences, benefits
Why We Need Volunteers and How They Shape Our Society
Some ask why do people choose to volunteer? Their question should really be, why don’t people choose to volunteer? Some people are required to volunteer as it may be part of their educational curriculum, a sentencing by a judge to do community service, or simply because it helps forward their careers by having real world experience. Some volunteer because they enjoy it and they think everyone and everything should have the same opportunities. Everyone has their own reasons to volunteer, but not everyone does it. I believe that volunteers shape our society, whether they do it to help others, or help themselves.
Volunteering is essential for society. It removes you from your comfort zone and gives you an opportunity to face new challenges, meet people with different lifestyles, and work with organizations with different perspectives and experiences than your own (Noordegraaf, M. A.). They help to bring hope and direction to people who may be missing it. Even if you are just volunteering because you have to, you are still helping to contribute to the success of society as a whole. Many companies and organizations are only prosperous if they preserve a strong volunteer workforce (Carr, D. C.) As a matter of fact, places like social service organizations, faith-based organizations, and even museums often depend on more volunteers than paid workers to meet their goals and fulfill their missions (Carr, D. C.). These organizations are committed to finding ways to further benefit society (Carr, D. C.). They pick up the pieces where government programs have left off and continue to help where needed (Carr, D. C.).
By volunteering for these organizations, people are helping our society meet the needs of people from all walks of life (Carr, D. C.). For example, “An orphanage may have a small full time staff that works tirelessly throughout the year, but international volunteers provide organizations with extra hands, love, and commitment in order to make sure that as many needs as possible are met (goabroad.com)”. By providing people with essential physical and mental tools for their success, volunteers can help to create an educational foundation that communities around the world can utilize forever (goabroad.com). Go Abroad poses a great question when they state, “Imagine if no volunteers showed up to their posts for a week. Who would teach kids in schools and who would support the community development organizations? How many afterschool programs, shelters, and medical outreach groups would shut down? You can imagine what would happen, and this illustrates how volunteers are an invaluable piece of our global community (goabroad.com)”.
Volunteering can be beneficial for your career. People who volunteer tend to make more money (Carr, D. C.). That is partially in part of the relationships that people create while volunteering that can be used as a bargaining chip for financial benefit and for career gain (Carr, D. C.). Volunteering encourages socializing with others, networking, and making new friends from all sorts of backgrounds. Those who give their time for others are more likely to meet people they may not have if not for giving their time and energy to an organization, person or cause. This helps to further career networking. Meeting other people who have connections can help one get into places that they probably would not have if not for those connections.
Volunteerism helps establish strong relationships. Volunteering brings those who are unalike and those who are alike together for a good cause. Working with people who feel as strongly as you do about supporting a certain cause creates a path to developing strong relationships with them (Carr, D. C.). It is not just helpful for making new friends either. Volunteering alongside other members of your family can strengthen familial bonds (Carr, D. C.). This can create a ripple effect throughout generations. “Children who volunteer with their parents are more likely to become adults who volunteer (Carr, D. C.)”.
Volunteers make the little things count. Tasks that may seem minuscule or “too small to make a difference” actually have the opposite effect (goabroad.com). “Volunteers help improve areas around the world by completing any and every task, from mending fences and picking up trash to painting a community building or filling a classroom with necessary supplies (goabroad.com)”. Volunteers make a difference by recognizing no task is too small or insignificant. In developing countries, many community developments rely heavily on volunteers to build houses, create clean water systems, and provide other maintenance tasks for communities in need of some TLC (goabroad.com).
“I volunteer to give back. I grew up with everything I could ever need at my fingertips and I am a firm believer that everyone else should have that opportunity too (Amiya Harris, January 30, 2019, Personal Communication)”. The woman I interviewed for this study had an immense amount of volunteer experience. She has done things from as simple as handing out food to the homeless on thanksgiving, to helping rehabilitate sea turtles, to being a volunteer educator in Africa. She has been all over the world volunteering and has enjoyed every minute of it.
Recently, she traveled to Mexico on a Habitat for Humanity mission. While she was there, a hurricane hit the town that she was in and everyone had to be evacuated. When they got back, there was a lot of destruction within. “They were already used to living in poverty, but not like this. Before they at least had a roof over their heads, now they have no money and most of their homes weren’t even safe (Amiya Harris, January 30, 2019, Personal Communication)”. Her volunteer team now had to have more supplies sent in that they didn’t know they would even need. They made use of a rec center in the next city as shelter while they got to rebuilding the town. Though they were as small town, the people were grateful for everything the team did. They went above and beyond what they needed to because a community was in need.
Everyone benefits from volunteer efforts. Whether it be something as simple as picking up trash on the side of the road or being a volunteer educator in Africa, everyone benefits. It is easy to avoid volunteering. One could insist that they have too many responsibilities, time limitations, work getting in the way, etc. There are those that think that volunteering has to be something big. In reality, it can be anything that could benefit someone else. Something as easy as walking dogs at a local shelter for 30 minutes is still volunteering. Donating clothes to Goodwill is even considered volunteering. Something that is mutually beneficial to all parties is considered volunteering.
All things considered, society needs volunteers. They help run organizations that probably would not exist without them. Volunteers lend a helping hand where there are none. They care about more than just themselves, even if they are doing something just for personal gain. Amiya Harris’ advice was to, “[Not] do it SOLELY for your own gain. It is okay to do things now and again that do put you ahead, but don’t make all of your volunteering like that. Remember why you started. Remember to keep giving back (Amiya Harris, January 30, 2019, Personal Communication)”. Volunteers help shape the world as we know it.
- Carr, D. C. (2014, March 12). Psychology Today. 5 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-third-age/201403/5-reasons-why-you-should-volunteer
- GoAbroad Writing Team. (2017, February 17). GoAbroad. 10 Reasons Why Volunteers Make a Difference in the World. Retrieved from https://www.goabroad.com/articles/volunteer-abroad/10-photos-that-remind-us-why-volunteers-are-the-best-people-in-the-world
- Noordegraaf, M. A. (2016, May 27). The Sports Journal. Volunteering: Is it a Waste of Time or Best Experience Ever?. Retrieved from http://thesportjournal.org/article/volunteering-is-it-a-waste-of-time-or-best-experience-ever/
- Sparks, S. D. (2018, July 17). Education Week. Volunteerism Declined Among Young People. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/07/18/volunteerism-declined-among-young-people.html