Volunteering

Volunteer work

How is volunteering defined?

In essence, volunteering is an altruistic pursuit that means offering one's skills, labour or resources to another person or group without any reward in return. It is often tied up with concepts like the quality of human life because people who volunteer are usually doing so in order to improve things, either by acting in a charitable way or by sharing their ideas for the good of the whole community. Volunteering programmes now run in many walks of life, such as charity retail shops, mentoring schemes and overseas development projects. Volunteers often report they are rewarded from their activities even though they receive no pay.

 Why is volunteering good?

Volunteers do so for a sound reason, in the main. Although it is possible to get into volunteering for negative reasons, this is not very often the case. Volunteers feel that they are making a contribution with their life that means they have achieved something that might not be possible within the course of their working lives. It offers a social outlet for retired people, for example, who have organisational skills that would otherwise go to waste. By offering to work for nothing, volunteers can pay back into a community that may have supported them in the past. 

Can volunteering reduce stress?

On its own, volunteering does not have a direct causal link to stress reduction. However, many people who do it find that their mind is taken away from their own thoughts and anxieties. In short, by taking part in a voluntary activity, especially one that assists people in need, it helps the volunteer to put their own worries into better perspective. So long as the voluntary regime is not too demanding, many people who volunteer do report that they feel less stressed as a result. Consequently, just one or two sessions can help to lower levels of stress.

Will volunteering get you a job?

If you are looking for a job and have no direct experiences to get you the sort of position you are after, then volunteering can help. By working for a voluntary organisation, you can acquire many of the skills that employers are looking for. Even if you don't, then the level of commitment it takes to be a volunteer will show a potential employer that you have the get-up-and-go they want to see. It may not lead to paid employment directly, but volunteering certainly helps many people when it comes to landing a job.

Where did volunteering originate?

The term volunteer was originally a military one. A volunteer was someone who offered themselves for service in the forces from the seventeenth century onwards. It was not until the middle of the following century, however, that the word began to be used as a verb. Back then, volunteering was a paid-for pursuit even though recruits had volunteered themselves. As such, the word really began to mean working for free from the end of the nineteenth century onwards.

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