We are all so caught up in our daily routine of work, school and living that juggling time to fit in volunteering is not something that is often top of our lists. Here are a few thoughts to think about as we celebrate International Day of Volunteers today.
I encourage all my children and parents to set aside some time in their monthly routine to fit in some volunteering time and make it fun – as I see volunteering adds value and meaning to our lives. No matter how old we are, learning to give back to society, environment and to the needy around us is very important. Volunteering helps foster empathy and builds confidence that one can make a difference to others’ lives. Empathy is the most critical disposition for responding to the needs of others. In order to empathise, one needs to be able to imagine what that being is going through.
I have experienced this with my daughter when she started volunteering her time at the age of 10. It helped her to engage her natural empathetic sense to connect with animals around her. She learned to swap her lazy Sunday morning routine with volunteering at Blue Cross, caring for animals at the shelter. This volunteering activity provided her with experiences that affirm her sense of empathy, gave her confidence that she can make a difference with her own effort and the skills she has. I am certain that this confidence has empowered her to apply herself in other contexts, including school.
Volunteering helps gain experience of working with other people. We all know that social skills are best learned in social situations. In this modern world full of electronic gadgets around us, opportunities for social contact with other people is becoming a forced necessity. When people come together for volunteering it presents those opportunities for social situations to emerge and thus learning from those interactions. For example, at BlueCross, I saw how my daughter learned to negotiate her time with other volunteers who are strangers.
Volunteering helps develop new skills and learning to cope with difficult situations. Again referring to experiences with my daughter, whenever she saw a dog in distress, she would have a meltdown and cry, not knowing what to do! Volunteering helped her to cope with such situations. She learned new skills – de-ticking puppies, bathing, feeding them and comforting them. This, she learned, surely made a difference to the puppies and to her!
Volunteering helps children to learn important life lessons, can make them happier and give them a sense of pride as they learn to give back.