The benefits of volunteering
By Alison Rogers, EcoNetwork Port Stephens.
Having grown up in Port Stephens it was wonderful to return to my home town in 2021 after a 25-year hiatus. Finding an ocean swimming group at Shoal Bay, joining the tennis club at Soldiers Point and reconnecting with school friends to plan a 30-year reunion were all highlights.
However, there was something missing – a gap that these social experiences were not fulfilling. I started thinking about what had made me happy throughout my life. I recalled being a member of the volunteer fire brigade in Katanning, Western Australia. I remembered the joy of being involved with Tennant Creek branch of the CWA. I reminisced about the crazy blend of dogs, beer and tree planting that featured in equal measure in the Ludmilla Landcare Group in Darwin.
So I jumped at the opportunity to explore the Mambo Wetlands at the open day, put my name down on the volunteer lists for the local Landcare groups, signed up with Climate Action Port Stephens and found a niche in EcoNetwork Port Stephens. Now that I have found some groups to meet, plan, laugh and work with, I do feel happier.
A huge amount of research exists to prove that social isolation is detrimental to health and wellbeing, but the latest findings support my experience that volunteering for a group with a cause does result in even greater benefits. The latest research from community psychology suggests that volunteers identifying with each other and focused on contributing to something outside themselves have a greater sense of belonging and build even stronger social support networks.
- Volunteering provides unique opportunities to meet new people and share and exchange ideas with individuals that you may not normally have in your social circle.
- Volunteering facilitates a sense of belonging, transformation and connectedness.
- Benefits of volunteering with others towards shared goals include increased levels of personal happiness, social skills, compassion, health, wellbeing and cognitive ability.
- Benefits are strongest when volunteers focus on the needs of other individuals and issues in the community and they feel like they are making a valuable difference.
- Maintaining your health and wellbeing means you will be able to contribute more for longer – a very positive feedback loop.
If you have enjoyed this segment of Get Involved keep an eye out for next month’s topic ‘Finding diverse new members and being inclusive’. Send comments, feedback or ideas for new topics to firstname.lastname@example.org
References and further reading:
- The University of Sydney’s 7 surprising benefits of volunteering
- Community Gardens Promote Connection to Others
- Benefits of volunteering from the Health Direct website
- How can ‘we’ help? Exploring the role of shared social identity in the experiences and benefits of volunteering
- Volunteering and health benefits in general
- Volunteering in the Community: Potential Benefits for Cognitive Aging