What Are the Benefits of Volunteering?

Happy 2019 to you all! With a new year, comes a new chapter. We all have resolutions we want to keep and have hopes and dreams for the year ahead. One common resolution and something we practise everyday is being the best person we can be. There are many ways we can work on ourselves, but one way is by giving back. When battling any chronic illness, it is easy to feel guilty for all the taking that we do. None of this our our fault, it’s simply because we need the help, whether it is emotional support or help with simple tasks like organisaing medication and driving us to medical appointments. We all understand that giving and taking is a two-way road and so we want to give back in any which way we can. Many are at a loss at where to begin. We are too poorly and often feel useless. How can we possibly give back in this state? However, there are many ways of volunteering and giving back and so I decided to ask our Online Community what volunteering means to them as given the time of year, it feels like an important subject to highlight. I asked people how they volunteer and whether they dedicate their time, skills or love. In hope that we can inspire more people to give back as well as giving you some key ideas on where to begin if you do want to start volunteering:

‘I volunteer teaching Ukulele to a variety of people. I also volunteer by teaching a vocals/singing workshop each week for my local U3A. It’s really great to help people develop their skills and I make lots of new friends. In the autumn I will also run a fitness class for the over 50s, despite my own pain from Lyme. I have fun and look forward to every day.’

‘I make dinner for my family whenever I feel well enough, usually no more than once every 2 or 4 weeks, however they always love it and that makes me feel like I still have a purpose. I look after my sister’s dog occasionally when she wants to go away. I enjoy this and it’s peace of mind for her. I also remind myself of the things I will be able to do for others when I’m better. ‘

‘I volunteer in a church located in an abandoned village in the middle of Salisbury Plain training area. I either serve refreshments or sell merchandise to visitors who come from far and wide. It’s a beautiful church with display boards telling the history of how the Army ordered all the villagers to leave, sadly never to return. We’re open for short periods at Christmas and New Year, over Easter and during the Summer. It’s in the middle of a live firing range! I really enjoy meeting visitors and many have heard about the village from TV reports. It gives me a sense of normality although I do find it tiring but I hope to continue for as long as possible.’

‘I volunteer as a parent counsellor for Face 2 Face (Scope), supporting parents coming to terms with their children’s disability diagnoses. I’m also a parent speaker on behalf of the Down’s Syndrome Association, talking to midwives and doctors about delivering diagnoses with compassion and balance. We’ve just had the funding cut for Face 2 Face, but I still do the Down’s Syndrome Association talks. There is no support for families other than charity and I would hate anyone to feel isolated as I did. For the Down’s Syndrome Association talks, we campaign for proper information to stop people being railroaded into terminations by doctors. Maybe I’ve saved a few lives, eh? I hope so.’

Thank you for all the inspiring and uplifting responses I received to this question. You should all be proud of your commitments, hard work and kind hearts and I encourage you to continue. Don’t forget that nothing is ever too small or too little. People will appreciate your love, time and skills at any given time. That is what is important to remember.

Some ideas that may inspire you;

  • Giving your time to a loved one: whether it is a shoulder to cry on, a phone call, a coffee meet up or even just a friendly hug.
  • Cooking a meal: show off your culinary skills to family and friends.
  • Writing a letter to someone who needs support. You can pick up the phone or message them via email just to be a person who is ‘there.’ It goes a long way.
  • Raising money or supporting a charity or a person in need of help. Raising money doesn’t have to invole a huge feat like a sky dive or a marathon. It can simply be selling some cakes or cookies at a car-boot sale. You can raise £20 or £200 but regardless of the total, your efforts will be appreciated and will go a long way.
  • Volunteering your time to someone in need. This may mean just being present with them or helping them out with simple tasks like cooking a meal, taking them to appointments and other daily dasks.
  • Teaching: you can share your skills and talents with others.
  • Raising awareness: You can go out and speak about your illness, your story and what you are going through. Just a short 20-minute chat could protect and save lives.

Giving back in any shape or form is amazing for our overall mental and physical health. It gives us a buzz, a sense of purpose and some structure to what often seems like an unpredictable life goverend by illness. All the bonuses of giving back is why we should focus on doing as much as we possibly can. Don’t pressurise or yourself or feel overwhelmed as that is counter-productive but giving back little and often, like with anything, can make huge differences.

The amount of people joining out Buddy System in our Online Community is evidence of the commitment and effort people are willing to offer to support others who are going through the same battle. Thank you to everyone who has been getting involved in this! If anyone wants a simple way of giving back – it is right there in front of you. Pick up that phone and call someone in need, leave that message or meet up with someone for a coffee. This constitutes you giving back and you volunteering your time, friendship, love and support.

Let’s make 2019, the year we don’t just encourage ourselves to be better people but others too. Illness can never steal a kind heart. That will always be ours and we should want to use it as much as we can.

Thank you all so much, you are all superstars.

Sophie