ANSWERS TO YOUR BURNING QUESTIONS ON VOLUNTEERING.

By Imadojiemu Marietta O.

I had just returned from the School Health Education Empowerment Tour at Morit International School, Ajegunle, Lagos, Nigeria, organized by us at Smile with me Foundation and my phone was beeping non-stop while i allowed it stay glued, deep down in my handbag to prevent unnecessary phone loss stories.

Finally, I got home and got the phone out to see what the ‘buzz’ was about. Alas! 8 of 10 direct messages asked, “Marietta, how can I Volunteer too? Why do you volunteer anyway?”. I laughed to myself at thought of what must have gone through the minds of the people who asked the latter question- “This lady must be crazy, giving services for free in this ‘harsh’ Nigerian economy?”. Thanks to them though, this post was overdue!

Volunteering simply means freely offering to do something or work for an organization without getting paid. It involves contributing meaningfully, in some cases, while working with other individuals, to make communities better. The business times puts the value of a volunteer’s work to be just above $20 per hour. In reality, ‘A good Volunteer is priceless’ and no price tag can effectively reward work done. Moreso, payment comes in other very satisfying ways for an informed volunteer.

‘THE WHY’ OF VOLUNTEERING

There are innumerable reasons to give pro bono services for a better community, few of which are highlighted here;

Health Benefits

Yes, you got that right! Volunteering can make you healthier both physically and psychologically. Studies have shown that the subtle act of offering help can help you in return by combating depression and counteracting the effects of stress, anger and anxiety as this gives one a sense of purpose and boosts those happy hormones- endorphins. Volunteers can attest to the euphoria they experience following an often long volunteer day. A SMILE volunteer once said to me, “Yes, we worked our asses out but I don’t know why I feel so good about it and relaxed like I only did a ‘work out’ routine and made friends while at it”. How gratifying!

Need to de-stress? Give this a try. Your regular ice cream and movies indulgence cannot solve everything, you know?

In addition, evidence of the physical effects of volunteering can be linked to a study from Carnegie Mellon University in 2013. Adults aged 50 years and above who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. The research explained that volunteering may have indirectly contributed to this finding, as volunteers are more likely to engage in healthy practices and their work increase their physical activity.

A Chance To Change The World

According to Albert Einstein, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. Rendering a service, giving your time and knowledge to help a community for free, is one way you can contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Advance Your Career

It will give you a chance to acquire and put to good practice, valuable skills vital for the workplace such as teamwork, clarity in communication, Leadership, organizing and strategic planning. Furthermore, you get the rare opportunity of networking with like-minded people who can add value to you and vice versa. In the long run, this can serve as a springboard to getting huge global opportunities.

THE ‘HOW’ OF VOLUNTEERING

Before you begin (or if you are currently a volunteer) take some time to, ask yourself, what value can I offer that would be useful to the cause? How much time can I commit to this? How do I hope to grow personally while at it? What am I passionate about? There are many options ranging from Health, Education, Climate change to gender equity, to name a few.

After gaining some clarity for the above questions, do your research! it’s okay if you can’t figure it all out before starting, just start.

Find out organizations whose vision are in line with your passion, preferably, one in the state where you reside. In certain cases, it is possible to volunteer your skills online too, for example, graphic designers, planners can try volunteering remotely.

Then, contact them to know when next they will be recruiting. If they don’t respond initially, don’t back out, keep getting the mails out till you get a reply. You can also simply ask volunteers you know personally if you have an interest in their work.

Finally, I  suggest that whatever  you do while volunteering, make sure you;

  • Give back to society.
  • Make a difference.
  • Grow your capacity.
  • Try to have a source of income (job or side hustle)
  • Have fun and feel good.

Feel free to let us know in the comments about how this helps you make a  decision to start or continue volunteering.

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