Oh, to be a volunteer

It is said there is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up. And what better way to help than by volunteering; giving of your time, energy and skills without being motivated by, or requesting material or financial gain.

Unlike so many other things in life, there is choice involved in volunteering, which usually arises out of a desire to help others. People will say they volunteer because they want to “give something back” or “make a difference”. Maybe they want something meaningful to do; to have a reason to get up in the morning; to give purpose to their lives.

But did you realise that volunteering is actually good for your health? Many reports have concluded that those involved in active volunteering have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease than those who do not volunteer.

It’s also said that older volunteers derive the greatest benefits, not least because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity, both of which are essential to successful ageing.

Some people face a sense of loss of status and usefulness once they retire, and even those who are younger, whether unemployed or not, achieving satisfaction from their jobs, can experience the same feelings. Loneliness is another challenge helped by volunteering, as it brings people into contact with others from all walks of life and offers new opportunities for social interaction.

It can boost our self esteem and bestow greater strength to deal with life’s challenges. It also allows flexibility, in that volunteers can choose what they want to do, and when they do it.

In particular, volunteering to assist those less fortunate than ourselves can bring a tremendous sense of satisfaction and, for a lot of people, helping others in dire need is an important aspect of life which brings them an increased sense of worth.

The emotional and spiritual benefits alone, such as pride, satisfaction and accomplishment, are certainly worthwhile reasons for choosing to volunteer. And you can add to those an awareness that as a volunteer, you will be helping the community; making use of your time and talents; passing on your skills and knowledge to others; giving back to the community; reaching out to those in need; caring for others; lifting your own and others’ spirits; keeping active and involved, and improving the quality of your own life as well as the lives of others.

And whether you seek it or not, the greatest reward is likely to be found in the simple pleasure gained from seeing a smile or hearing a “thank you” from those you are helping.

If not undertaken by volunteers, many activities would have to be funded by Government or by private capital. So apart from adding to the overall economic output of the country, volunteering enables vital work to be done which might otherwise be abandoned due to a lack of financial resources.

Throughout Barbados, the call for volunteers can be heard from a wide range of charities, NGOs, churches and others looking for all kinds of support, assistance and special skills. Keep your eyes and ears open, answer that call and you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

* Join Michael Goodman & Peter Boyce on Bajan Living every Monday, 2 p.m. — 3 p.m., on 100.7 QFM Barbados or online at qfm.bb. Find us on Facebook or email us at bajanliving@live.com

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