Today is International Volunteer Day, when we give a nod to people everywhere who give a little of their spare time to worthy causes. Volunteering encompasses everything from running the sausage sizzle for your kid’s soccer team, to carrying supplies into war torn communities. Volunteers pick up the many jobs that governments simply don’t fund and our lives would be greatly impoverished without them. Without volunteers there’d be no more weekend sports for kids, charities would be stretched beyond their limits, and your favourite museums and galleries would have to close their doors, just to name a few. Volunteering has also been shown to benefit the volunteer, particularly in terms of mental health. There’s a warm glow to be had when you know you’re making a difference, as well as social opportunities and the chance to develop skills you might not find in your workplace.
So, why aren’t we all out there doing a whole lot more volunteering? The biggest barrier to volunteering in Australia is a lack of time; juggling work and family responsibilities can be challenging enough without trying to add extra tasks into the mix! But what if volunteering could actually improve your work/life balance?
Here are 5 ways that volunteering can benefit YOU as well as the community
1. Too busy for quality family time? Why not volunteer as a family? A commitment to volunteering as a family is a commitment to working together as a team and communicating away from distractions. You will be modelling positive behaviour and social awareness lessons that will stick with your kids for life.
2. Always too busy for the gym? Make volunteering part of a bigger commitment to a healthy lifestyle by choosing a program that includes physical activity or life skills (community gardens, sports clubs or rubbish removal).
3. Frustrated at work? Use volunteering as a way to upskill or investigate another industry. Volunteering these days is well regulated (it’s not just about showing up and lending a hand) which means you get the benefit of training courses before you start – and references when you leave. Don’t be afraid to ask the volunteer organisations you want to work with exactly what they can offer you!
4. Struggling with parenting? Use volunteering as an opportunity for strategic education: choose a volunteer program that works with teens, or raises awareness for a particular cause that’s close to your family’s hearts. Volunteering looks great on your CV – and that goes for your kids as well. A child who has been involved in volunteering from a young age will have the edge over a child with nothing but school on their CV when it comes to early part time jobs.
5. Need more time for fun? Did you know that you can sometimes nab free tickets to festivals if you offer to volunteer for a few hours? Or how about hanging at your favourite gallery or public garden for the day, but getting your hands dirty while you’re there? If you tend to spend a little time each day getting all FOMO’d on Facebook, why not put that time to good use? There are many volunteer roles that can be done online, from the comfort of your iPad, in your PJs! The best one I’ve heard about today is to annotate photos of penguins for conservation researchers who are working in the Antarctic. Cool! (literally)
Are you a volunteer? Hit me with your favourite volunteer role, or suggest an organisation that needs help!