“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth,” said famous heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali. He’s right. I can’t think of a more honourable thing to do than give up time and energy for others, while expecting nothing in return.
And there are so many people in this area that volunteer; some have been helping out since well before I was born, and many wince when I snap their photo for the paper because they prefer to stay out of the spotlight.
But regardless of the intentions behind volunteerism—whether it’s done for oneself, for others, or for both—one thing is for sure: the benefits are plenty.
When I graduated from babysitting and applied for my first “real” job, my employer asked to know how I spent my free time because it would help her get an idea of my character and interests before we met in person. As part of my university application, I had to demonstrate that I’d done volunteer work in the field to which I was applying in order to be accepted into my program of choice. Now that I’m in the professional workforce, employers are less interested in knowing about my volunteer experience, but the connections I made volunteering have made great professional mentors and references that have helped me immensely along the way.
While researchers are continuously working to figure out exactly which aspects of volunteerism provide the greatest benefits, they do know there is a correlation between volunteerism and better mental, physical, and social health.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says that those who remain actively engaged with and help others are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and stress. They’re also better able to handle life transitions and change.
On the physical health front, volunteers benefit from what is commonly referred to as “helper’s high” because the act of volunteering releases endorphins. The release of these feel good hormones can lower cardiovascular risk and cholesterol, improve immune function, and lower blood pressure, which in turn lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
Yup, that’s right, volunteers can actually live longer.
The results of an American Psychological Association study published in 2012 show that volunteers were at lower risk of mortality four years later, particularly those that volunteered more regularly, and even more so for those that volunteered for reasons other than their own personal gain.
Every year hundreds of students across the province scramble at the last minute before graduation because they haven’t earned the 40 volunteer hours they need in order to receive their diploma. But I’m not frowning on you, students! I was once in your shoes—staying up late to finish assignments, working a part-time job, participating in all kinds of extracurricular activities, and trying to squeeze in down time with my friends. But if you think about it, those 40 hours break down to 10 hours a year—a drop in the bucket, really.
There is a long list of opportunities out there, many that you might not be aware of, and a little something for everyone. Because of the volunteers that tirelessly serve our communities year after year, our little corner of the globe is a wonderful place to live.
If you are an organization or individual looking for (youth or adult) volunteers on a regular basis or for a special event, please get in touch!
The Northern Sun News will start regularly publishing volunteer opportunities for the Red Lake/Ear Falls area this fall. Call (807) 727-2888, e-mail email@example.com, or stop by our office at 200 Howey St., Red Lake.