11 Answers to those who ask 'why volunteer?'
“But, why volunteer for free when you can work here in the UK?”
Of course you can work where you’re at. Most do.
If you do the same things over and over, you’re going to get the same results. If you want to stand out and reap the rewards, then it’s super important to look at something which pushes you well out of your comfort zone.
Volunteering provides so many benefits to all those involved. From the local communities and people who need the vital support, through to the actual volunteers, everyone is better off.
So if you’re asked, or if you’re even asking yourself ‘why volunteer’, then check out some of the benefits below:
1. To do some good for the world
At the heart of volunteering, is the project it serves. Whether at a social, environmental or animal project, a volunteer can make a huge impact for a community. These projects are dedicated to the area’s progression, but they can only give a certain number of hours in a day.
Volunteers help supplement existing teams and more hands mean more help. You may feel that as one person, you can only help with bits and pieces. But these bits and pieces need to be done and they form an important cog in the wider volunteering machine. Without volunteers, projects could not serve the community in the way they do.
2. Broaden your horizons & experience new cultures
In a world where some are closing off to new people and cultures, it’s super important for as many people as possible to be global citizens.
There is so much to learn off each other and new cultures can change your perceptions on how you look at the wider world. By contributing in new areas, you are not only providing help to underprivileged communities. You’re also taking new ideas and perspectives back to your own home community.
3. Self development
Volunteering will push you out of your comfort zone. From the location to technical skills, you’ll be involving yourself in a project that is completely different to what you’re used to.
You’re going to be dealing with new people and no doubt loads of new challenges. But this is where the growth happens. You’ll take home such a wealth of new skills that you can apply to your everyday life, as well as experience which sets you apart from the crowd.
4. Follow a passion
If you’ve always loved animals, why wouldn’t you want a chance to do that every day?
To have something you’re passionate about is a fantastic thing, as then work isn’t 'work'. You’re loving what you’re doing, as it towards something you love. It provides a chance to immerse yourself in it and it provides some fulfilment in both your personal and professional life.
5. Make new friends
You will make friends for life when volunteering.
You’re going through an incredible and challenging experience together, whilst having a shared passion for your chosen project.
When you’re around those with a similar mindset, it makes those shared experiences even better. Yet, this is just your fellow volunteers! You’ll also become friends with the locals, the in-country teams and the wider community. Although these areas need volunteer projects, you’ll also find the most welcoming, inclusive and friendly communities you’ve ever come across. Whether you volunteer in Ghana, Thailand or South Africa, you’ll head home telling stories of your new mates in each.
6. Highlight important issues
The work you do isn’t just felt during your trip.
Volunteers play a huge part in spreading the word of their experiences and opening the wider publics mind to these issues. Whether poaching issues in South Africa or rescuing animals from the darker side of Thailand’s tourism industry, there’s so much that people do not know about these plights.
Armed with new education and new experiences, you’re able to play your part in highlighting what’s wrong and what people can do to help. By talking to friends and families, you’re being a mouthpiece to those who can’t shout for help.
7. Give back
Although it’s quite a generalisation, European countries, in general, are very blessed with the riches in our lives.
I’m not talking about having the riches of the 1%. But, it’s easy to forget that having constant clean, drinking water and the ability to buy any food we want, is a luxury that a lot of the world don’t have.
Most of us will have been through a steady education and in comparison to the poorest countries, are paid extremely well for the job that we’re in.
We may lose track of this at times in the midst of our everyday issues. By volunteering, it allows us the opportunity to give to communities that aren’t as lucky as ours.
You really can have an impact on the direction of people’s lives.
Being from the areas we are from, we’re blessed to have an education and to be surrounded by (for the most part) forward-thinking people. What we’ve learnt from our environment, we can pass on to developing communities.
In some areas, as an example, children may not have had a guiding role model, who encourages them to become the best that they can be. You can help empower youngsters to believe in themselves and to help develop these soft skills. By doing so, they can feel empowered in their new confidence to achieve whatever they want when they grow up.
9. Have fun
Although it’s serious work, it’ll also a trip of a lifetime.
You’re going to be around like-minded individuals, all of whom want to make a difference. You’ll have opportunities to travel, to see the world and to experience things most won’t get a chance to.
It’s so important to remember to take it all in. You’ll be taking home stories and tales that you’ll tell everyone for the rest of your life, so being present and enjoying the moment is the key. On your days off, you’ll get into groups and tour the country you’re in, which can involve anything from shopping to surfing.
The trip is anything you make it!
10. Improve mental and physical health
Physically, you’ll certainly be getting involved.
Whether you’re working in a national park, or in a local school, you’ll no doubt be in a role which is pretty physically demanding. It’ll require you to get stuck in and this will no doubt prove some great exercise (especially if like me you were office based in your previous jobs!)
Yet another area where volunteering can play a huge part is in helping to improve mental health.
By helping others and making a positive impact, you can help reduce your own stress and anxiety. You'll have the chance to work on your own happiness through working on a passion, whilst also developing a keener sense of purpose.
As also spoken about earlier, volunteering will help you build people skills and in particular, new friendships. It’ll help develop social skills that you may not know you had and it can have a snowball effect on developing into a more confident, self-assured person.
11. Progress into a new industry
Jumping from, say, an office sales career, to a wildlife conservation career, could be a little difficult in one leap.
You’ve got to show you’re technically proficient enough for the role, but you also need to display a little experience within that industry.
Volunteering is the perfect middle step in gaining that experience.
Providing you’re volunteering for the right reasons and pass the relevant background/visa checks, you’ll be able to contribute to most volunteer projects. It’s a perfect first step into getting that relevant experience and it displays even more about your character and your passion.
Even if it’s in a completely different industry, volunteering still allows you to gain and show a range of transferrable skills. All of these can only benefit any application you go for in the future.
So whether you’re asking the question, or it’s your friends or family, you’ve got a range of answers to ‘why volunteer?’.
Personally and professionally, there are a host of benefits that will help you progress in whatever area of your life you want.
But at the end of it all, volunteering is a vital cog in helping to provide structure for developing communities to thrive. To go above and beyond to give means you’ll be improving the lives of others, which is one of the highest benefits you could receive.