Many charities need a little extra help particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and they rely on the legion of brilliant volunteers who help feed the homeless, attend to the orphanages or call an older person who is facing spending time alone.

Covid-19 may have affected many financially, however there are many simple acts of kindness that require no spend, but a more invaluable asset: your time.

Volunteers make an immeasurable difference in the lives of others by simply giving of their time and love. Oftentimes, their core intention is helping others. But did you know that volunteering can benefit your own health as well? Researchers have attempted to measure the benefits that volunteers receive including positive feeling referred to as “helper’s high”, increased trust in others and increased social interaction.

From lowering stress to boosting self-confidence, research has shown that volunteering offers many health benefits, such as:

1. Volunteering decreases the risk of depression. Research has shown that volunteering leads to lower rates of depression. Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests, both of which have been shown to decrease depression. Even during Covid-19 when physical distancing is advised, brief moments of socialisation are not restricted once within the recommended parameters.

2. Volunteering gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills. Volunteers at homes for the elderly or orphanages perform critical roles in assisting staff and updating families. They may serve as greeters providing patient room information and directions. At hospitals, they make prayer shawls, blankets, sweaters and hats typically given to newborn babies and cancer patients. Some volunteers move these services and skills forward and it becomes their vocation.

3. Volunteering helps people stay physically and mentally active. Volunteer activities get you moving and thinking at the same time. One study found that volunteering among adults provided benefits to physical and mental health. Another study found that, in general, volunteers report better physical health than do non-volunteers. Older volunteers experience greater increases in life satisfaction and greater positive changes in their perceived health as a result of volunteering.

4. Volunteering may reduce stress levels. Volunteering may enhance a person’s social networks to buffer stress and reduce risk of disease. By savoring time spent in service to others, you will feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.

5. Volunteering may reduce your pain levels. An analysis of data from Mayo Clinic, Longitudinal Study of Aging, found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health. In addition, several studies have shown that volunteers with chronic or serious illness experience declines in pain intensity and depression when serving as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain.

6. Volunteering helps you meet others and develop new relationships. One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share common interests with you. Dedicating your time as a volunteer also helps you expand your network and practice social skills with others.

How to find the right volunteer opportunity

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a position that you would enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organisation’s needs.

Ask yourself the following:

– Would you like to work with adults, children, animals, or remotely from home?

– Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?

– Are you better behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role?

– How much time are you willing to commit?

– What skills can you bring to a volunteer job?

– What causes are important to you?

You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time to identify your goals and interests. Think about why you want to volunteer. The opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, the Health Plus team is in direct contact with a number of organisations that offer Volunteer opportunities, from the Volunteer Centre of Trinidad and Tobago to Health and Wellness associations in T&T and the region.

If interested, feel free to reach out to [email protected]