Why should we volunteer for our community?

Anyone can be a volunteer. You can be young or old, a student or a parent, employed or unemployed, a man or a woman, from any race and any creed. The desire to offer your time or service for free is all you need.

Some people think they have no time or skills to give. This is not true. There are many types of volunteer opportunities that you can choose. Some can be a one day event like picking up trash. Others require a repeating commitment, like twice a month for three months helping out at a retirement home. Individuals can choose to volunteer on their own or as a family. There are some corporate organizations that provide volunteer opportunities to their employees through the workplace.

In Canada, a good place to begin your search for volunteer opportunities is by checking out these two sites: Volunteer Canada and Charity Village. You local community newspaper might also publish some upcoming volunteer events in your neighbourhood. There will surely be a volunteer job that will be a match to your skills and time if you look hard enough.

5 Reasons to Volunteer:

Connect with Your Community

It is human nature to want to be part of something. Volunteering in your community is a great way to reach out from within your inner family circle to your larger group of friends and neighbours. My local neighbourhood mall recently sponsored a clean-up event for Earth Day. As a regular shopper, I joined a team of mall employees and other volunteer shoppers. I was pleasantly surprised to know that we shared a common bond in caring for our environment. This leads to the second reason.

STC - Earth DayCredit: Mogo Photos

Support a Cause

There is strength in numbers. You can do more for the worthwhile cause or causes you believe in if you join with others who share your passion. You can achieve more and be a louder voice as a team. Just check your television, radio and newspaper advertisements and you will notice familiar events like runs or races to raise funds and awareness for various causes. You can make a big difference in your community by supporting a cause. To go back to my example, my volunteer experience supported an eco-friendly environment. The organization had sponsored this event for 5 years now and it was the first time that they opened the volunteer opportunities to non-employees to grow their volunteer base. Their cause and the time needed from me was a perfect fit. I will support this cause again next year if I am available.

Share Skills and Time

A third reason to volunteer is the opportunity to share your skills and time. Even a good and worthy cause will be difficult to promote if it lacks funding and support. When you volunteer your skills, you are sharing your knowledge with others and help them to grow. Time that you give freely is a precious gift and has no definite monetary value. These are signs that you are a person who cares. It is often easier to give a donation to a cause and forget about it. Sharing your skills and time adds a more personal connection. My recent volunteering experience did not need special skills from us. We just needed to be able to pick up garbage from the ground (easy enough). The organization was very appreciative and kindly organized a barbecue for all volunteers.

Volunteers at work.(46813)Credit: Mogo Photos.

Good Feeling

Have you felt good after doing a good deed? It is believed that our brain produces endorphins that give us that feeling good experience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines endorphins as "a neurochemical occurring naturally in the brain and having analgesic properties."

The Bible says "Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22). Many believe that doing good deeds bring good karma. Whatever good you do comes back to you and give you an inner peace and feeling of satisfaction.

Scientific reason or not, volunteering brings about this good feeling. Continuously doing good deeds can help you keep a positive outlook on life. I must say that it felt good to give something back to the community and be part of a team of people who want to keep our environment clean. I made new friends and hope to see them again next year. This in turn gives us the fifth reason.

Reduce Stress

Let's face it, everyone feels stress in daily life. Stress can arise from work or not having a job. Family, social life and financial worries sometimes make us worry more than we should and give us stress. Volunteering provides a relief from all these because it gives you a purpose, a sense of control and a degree of feeling good. It may just be the thing that restores balance in your busy life or provides that welcome distraction. In my case, it was just the thing to take the stress off my job hunting attempts.

There are many unsung heroes in our midst that started as one volunteer and inspired others to join them. I have heard of a young girl who collected food items from her neighbours to give to the local food bank. Or the other young girl who collected winter coats from friends to give to those in need. Canada's hero Terry Fox started a run for cancer research and has left behind an organization to continue his dream. There are many other non-profit organizations that would not survive without the help of volunteers.

To summarize, volunteering is a good thing for everyone. It keeps you grounded by connecting you to your community and widening your circle of friends. It gives you an opportunity to be passionate about a cause and make a difference. You get a chance to share your skills and time with others. It makes you feel good as a person and reduces your personal stress. Even one reason from this list is good enough for you to volunteer. Act now and be counted.