“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” – Gordon Hinckle
The UN General Assembly resolution on ‘Volunteerism’ calls on the need for sharing of
experiences and good practices. Especially in the backdrop of emerging contradictions and an increase in emotions that are insular in nature, intercultural interaction, especially the ones that are benign in nature are important. Thus, recognition and promotion of volunteering especially volunteering for a different region/country/culture have become significant.
Hedonism, self-love and egoistic pleasures as the only basis of human action seems to hold the roost in the contemporary digitally active society who seem lost in the alluring world of symbols and images, it is critical to locate ourselves in relation to our ‘self’ and the society. Mahatma Gandhi’s mantra is apt in this case, ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’ is definitely the best way to find our way back to the realities and understand our roots and traditions of a collectivist society.
While these are the social benefits and motivations that call for volunteering, there are also scientifically proven professional benefits of being a ‘do-gooder’. Take a look.
Dr. Tim Sharp, a University of Sydney of Alumnus and a PhD in Medicine, has pointed out that “satisfaction with life is at least partially dependent on living a life with purpose and meaning”, and we feel good we are doing good for others.
He further adds “When we’re helping others we’re more likely to feel good about ourselves which is, not surprisingly, a positive contributor to mental health. Mental and physical health are highly correlated so when we’re psychologically well, we’re also more likely to be physically well”
Along with experience, volunteering gives you skills very desirable as a job candidate. According to research commissioned by Time Bank for reed.co.uk, which used 3,000 employers and employees across the UK in June 2009, 19% said it helped improve their team working abilities, while 10% said their time management had improved.
Affirmed by Stanford Social Innovation Review, Skill-Based Volunteering is now being touted as the ‘The New Executive Training Ground’ ideal for building a corps of employees who are successfully able to lead and inspire which is essentially inculcated through service learnings and skill-based volunteering for unserved communities.
An example: In Chennai, India, two Medtronic employees worked on-site at Saveetha Medical College Hospital, a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost medical services to nearly 600 residents each day. Within just one month, the volunteers designed India’s first-ever study for diabetes caregivers. After administering the survey to more than 150 local caregivers, aggregating this data, and sharing the findings with Saveetha’s staff, the volunteers gained an experiential understanding of environmental and economic factors that can impact India’s healthcare system. (SSIR, 2013)
Skill based volunteering, such medical volunteering or special needs volunteering does, thus, becomes mutually beneficial for volunteers and the beneficiaries as well.
A study conducted by Adam D. Galinsky Et Al., Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA titled ‘When in Rome … Learn Why the Romans Do What They Do: How Multicultural Learning Experiences Facilitate Creativity’ explores how when a group or even an individual when living in a different setup, especially in a multicultural setup improves creativity through a) facilitating idea flexibility (e.g., the ability to solve problems in multiple ways), (b) increasing awareness of underlying connections and associations, and (c) helping overcome functional fixedness.
This, conclusively proves that taking the effort to volunteer and live abroad will contribute substantially to performing better at the workplace.
One of the key skills of most, if not all jobs, is talking to people. And volunteering is just that: working together and helping people through interaction and communication. In addition, 20% of employees said that volunteering helped their communications skills. Another positive aspect of meeting new people whilst volunteering is making friends with the same interests as you, and although not conventionally related to finding a job, this can create a lot more vocational connections and open many doors.
Not all volunteering experiences will always lead to ‘forming friendships’ but more often not they do help in making connections and networking. This has lasting professional benefits as it’s well known that one’s actual net worth is one’s ‘network’.
In a Society for Human Resources Management study, companies with strong sustainability programs were compared to companies with poor programs. The former had 55% better morale, 43% more efficient businesses processes, 43% stronger public image, and 38% better employee loyalty. (CNN, 2012). Furthermore, for today’s ‘millennials’ entering the workforce engagement in sustainability is a must-have, not a nice-to-have,” said Kellie McElhaney, director at the Center for Responsible Business, Haas School of Business, University of Berkeley. (CNN, 2012).
Sustainable Development, although, apparently is more of a ‘social’ than a ‘professional’ thing but even tad bit of farsightedness will dictate we develop, albeit, sustainably, for the very survival of the generations ahead.
i) CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/07/business/global-office-csr-volunteer/index.html
ii) Time Bank. Retrieved from: http://timebank.org.uk/key-facts
iii) Lewis Goodall. (2014, 19th February). Retrieved from BBC News:
iv) Stanford Social Innovation Review
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