As International Volunteer Day approaches this weekend, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub and Cumbernauld Family Hub are shining a light on volunteering by exploring the positive difference it can make to a person’s health and wellbeing.
A United Nations declared global celebration of volunteering, International Volunteer Day has taken place on 5 December since it was launched in 1985. It focuses on recognising the difference that volunteering makes at a social, cultural and economic level to so many developed and developing nations.
Volunteering – the simple act of giving your time free of charge – is hugely beneficial to society. Around nine out of 10 people in Greater Cumbernauld benefit from some sort of voluntary activity over the course of a year, sometimes without even knowing that volunteers were involved.
There are over 400 voluntary sector organisations in the Greater Cumbernauld and an estimated 15,000 people in the local area volunteer at least once a month. The economic value of volunteering across Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and the Northern Corridor is estimated to be approximately £1.5 million per year.
But could there also be benefits for the person giving their time, particularly in terms of health and wellbeing? The answer, resoundingly, is yes. Mary McNeil, Development Manager at Cornerstone House Centre, said:
“With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous.
“Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer themselves. The right volunteering role can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills and even advance your career.
“Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated and provide a sense of purpose.
“While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.”
In the below section, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub and Cumbernauld Family Hub outline some of the main advantages that volunteering can bring to the person giving their time.
VOLUNTEERING: HOW GIVING YOUR TIME CAN MAKE YOU FEEL HEALTHIER AND HAPPIER
Volunteering Connects You to Others
One of the most well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals and organisations in need.
And volunteering is a two-way street; it can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you expand your network and can lead to all sorts of positive social and cultural experiences.
One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighbourhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.
While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with similar goals and interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
Cumbernauld Family Hub also recommends volunteering together as a family where possible. Children watch everything you do, and by giving back to the community, you’ll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help other people and animals and enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you to get to know organisations in the community and find resources and activities for your children and family.
Volunteering Is Good For Your Mind and Body
Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health. For example, volunteering can help counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological wellbeing. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person. Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
Furthermore, volunteering can help combat depression by keeping you in regular contact with others and helping you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against low mood. It is true that volunteering can. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Humans are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
It is also proven that volunteering increases self-confidence. By volunteering, you are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
In this respect, volunteering can provide a sense of purpose. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning and direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated and add more zest to your life.
Volunteering is also good at helping you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure and have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you have a disability of chronic health condition, you can still benefit greatly from volunteering. In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes and digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.
Whether due to a disability, a lack of transportation, time constraints or because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many people choose to volunteer their time via phone or computer. In today’s digital age, many organisations need help with writing, graphic design, email and other web-based tasks. Some groups may require you to attend an initial training session or periodical meetings while others can be conducted completely remotely. In any volunteer situation, make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organisation is available to support you should you have questions.
Volunteering Can Advance Your Career
If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organisation. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.
Just because volunteering is unpaid, it does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favourite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication and marketing skills.
Effectively, volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some thematic areas, you can volunteer directly with an organisation that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home. Moreover, your volunteering might also expose you to professional organisations or internships that could benefit your career.
Volunteering Can Bring Fun and Fulfilment to Your Life
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energising escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.
Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter or help out at a children’s organisation.
So, just what is on offer for people who want to volunteer in the local area? The answer is several things; if you’re just at the stage of thinking about volunteering, 2022 could be the ideal time to get involved with a number of exciting projects and opportunities taking place across Cumbernauld.
For example, there are rewarding volunteering opportunities available through Cornerstone House Centre in a multitude of areas, including administration, marketing, events management, employability, family development and social media, amongst others.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, there are also many hands-on volunteering opportunities available in Cumbernauld too. Organisations and initiatives such as Cumbernauld Living Landscape, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), Scottish Wildlife Trust, Watch Us Grow, Active Schools North Lanarkshire and Seven Lochs Wetland Park work locally and regularly recruit volunteers for outdoor activities and events.
Several other voluntary sector organisations which recruit, train, involve and support volunteers operate in and around the Cumbernauld area. These include, amongst others, Bethlehem House of Bread Food Bank, CACE Older People Active Lives, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Citizens Advice Bureau, Cumbernauld Community Forum, Cumbernauld Poverty Action, Cumbernauld YMCA-YWCA and Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland.
Individuals interesting in volunteering in the Greater Cumbernauld area can do a search for current opportunities available locally by visiting the Volunteer Scotland website at www.volunteerscotland.net. Further specific support and advice on volunteering in Cumbernauld can be obtained by contacting Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire on 01236 748011 or emailing email@example.com.
Further information about activities to mark International Volunteer Day 2021 around the world can be obtained by visiting the UN Volunteers website.