**So while I was away, I did a bit of writing. And when I say bit, I mean a large chunk. Mainly for my English class. This is one of the essays I wrote (I can’t promise this is the edited version-my one drive is a mess), this one is my all time favorite. I’d love to hear your thoughts-and am always opened for tips on improvement!
How to Save the World
I was sixteen and had been volunteering passionately for roughly a year when the question surrounding my age of volunteering in such a high-intensity position surfaced. While my volunteer job itself involved handing out toiletries, towels, and other small needs to the ladies who stayed at the local Rescue Mission-what I witnessed could wear any person out quickly. Still, faithfully, for roughly a year; every Friday, Saturday, I would volunteer. Every time, a sense of comfort filling me as I walked down the white tiled floors, quilts hanging on the walls. And though I felt comfort from my volunteering position, the question always played on my mind. “Why is someone so young, volunteering here?”
And for a long amount of time, my only positive response was “I don’t know”. Even though I knew that I had dreams of saving the world, I knew that the answer wouldn’t be enough for those questioning ears. Then, on the brink of it all, as yet another argument broke out upon guests, as a mother ushered young children to their room in order to avoid the drama, it struck me. What makes my volunteering, any different from the children having to live in it? I, in fact, had benefits. I had positivity, and parents who had raised me to know that it wasn’t normal, but there were children who still lived to see that every day-mothers who worked to defend their child from that weekly. After this conclusion, I accepted that volunteering had become my drug, and rather than sitting around seeing the dullness in the world, I would be the one to cause the slightest amount of light. Of course, while my passion lies in that, I know that volunteering isn’t a widely accepted passion throughout the United States, and even other places. With this understanding, and the judgment I received from my good friends, and fellow classmates, I decided to take it upon myself to prove to the world, that there were mutual, universal benefits to volunteering. At the end of this report, I hope to have inspired you, at the very least, to learn more about the opportunities that surround, and possibly even start small, by touring the organizations that offer these opportunities.
Mental health awareness has come on the rise recently, addressing and bringing to light those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental disabilities. Very little are aware, however, that according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health “An estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had a serious mental illness (SMI), including 2.5 million adults living below the poverty line”. (SAMHSA 2015) Alas, we see that there is a great need for help in the communities that some find hard to see-but the question still stands; how? How can we help those who are struggling with mental disabilities, if we ourselves are struggling with them? Previously Dr. Anna Ziersch, and Professor Fran Baum (of Flinders University), conducted a study using 530 people, using questions of their mental and physical disabilities, and how volunteering affected it. In their study, they found that the more groups people were involved in the worst their mental – and physical – health. In this, they admit that there are flaws in their study. (Salleh 2004) With this information, it only proves to question, how can volunteering possibly be a positive thing, on the mental and physical health? According to the Help Guide article, they bring up the benefits of volunteering, one of them being the positive mental and physical health experience. They note that it can increase self-confidence, bring the idea that you are a part of something bigger. They also found that those who volunteer more are more active, which helps to lessen chronic pain and heart disease. In volunteering, it builds a solid support system, and there are even places that you can volunteer at that have opportunities to get help for mental health, that way, it’s mutual help. In another study, data was drawn from a survey of Texas adults, containing a statewide based sample of the adults. They found that volunteering was related to better health outcomes, and should be, in conclusion, promoted for public health, education, and an in general, a healthy lifestyle. (Stegal & Robinson 2019)
If you’re concerned about not having enough time to put toward volunteering, and your own personal development, in career and life, then perhaps recent article findings might bring some ideas to spark a little help in you. Forbes and Non-Profit Hub brings up that volunteering will give you a chance to make connections and develop new skills. (Shinn 2017; Horoszowski 2015) Perhaps you’re fresh out of college, looking for a job-then maybe putting a few hours into different organizations, using your skills might provide you with the little boost you need. Maybe you have a little extra time on your hands and are curious about taking up a new hobby, but don’t know what or where to start. Volunteering provides the opportunity to pick up new hobbies, skills, sharpen old ones, and even make connections. I grew up volunteering in an organization that helped the homeless, and after eight years, I was able to get my first job within the organization without much of a struggle; this being because I had established myself and my work.
Now, if you’re uncertain about volunteering, in fear that these organizations are actually more business-oriented, hurting more people rather than helping (such as taking money from those they are trying to help, and the public), this can be assured that this does not happen as frequently as new channels might mention, or even the public themselves. If this is something that truly concerns you, however, you can take the time to possibly tour the place you’re helping, as well as learn how it works. Possibly take the time to converse with some of the employees. Overall, volunteering can benefit in many ways, and taking the time to learn about where you are volunteering is an even bigger help, to everybody in an all-around circle.
Perhaps you’re the parent of a young child, always having to reign them in if they get rowdy. You’ve been reading through this the entire time thinking, “What about me?” Have no fear; we have a solution for this as well. In an article by Amanda Lewton and Angela Nievar, they note that research has been found to be beneficial surrounding volunteering, offering rich resources, and deepening relationships. (Lewton & Nievar 2012) As glorious as this does sound, though, I know it can be hard to find the time or patience to do so-let alone, finding a place for them to volunteer. Certainly, you would have a hard time bringing a child into the soup kitchen, but perhaps there is something they can hand out, such as napkins, or utensils. Maybe leading a children’s group is complicated, but perhaps they could just as easily play with the kids or help assemble small things. Walking and feeding dogs could be taxing for a young child; however, playing with puppies be something the child finds exciting. In every larger thing, there is a certain way to help your child interact. My mother had scheduled our first volunteer job by the time I was seven years old, stuffing Christmas cards for the local rescue mission (one of the biggest fundraisers of the year). My brother was five years old and placing stamps on the envelopes. She then continued for years to have us, volunteer, moving us into the kitchen, and later on down the road, into where I currently volunteer. The long-term benefits are evident, as I developed a sense of responsibility, and later on obtained a job through the organization we first stuffed Christmas cards for, years ago.
After all of this, if you’re still uncertain about how to volunteer, and go about making small changes to the world, possibly look into local nursing homes, soup kitchens, or even Animal Shelters. There’s no doubt that even if you struggle physically or mentally to get around, that there will be something for you to do. All along, though, you’ve heard the benefits of how volunteering can help you; but when getting started, don’t forget the key reason why you should also be volunteering: To help save the world. Volunteering has so many benefits to you, but when you become active, helping in any way you can, whether it be big or small, you will slowly pick up on the change. As someone who has spent so long volunteering, and later, working with volunteers, I can say for certain I have seen the changes it has made to the community. Every day someone new is learning how, and where to help, and now that you know, you too can help spread the awareness, and take some time to volunteer, and in the long run, help save the world.
Horoszowski, Mark. “5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 19 Mar. 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2015/03/19/5-surprising-benefits-of-volunteering/#6655a848127b.
Stegal, Jeanne, and Lawrence Robinson. “Volunteering and Its Surprising Benefits.” HelpGuide.org, HELPGUIDEORG International, 25 June 2019, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm
Shinn, Claire. “8 Long-Term Health Benefits of Volunteering.” Nonprofit Hub, Reward Volunteers, 14 Apr. 2017, https://nonprofithub.org/featured/8-long-term-health-benefits-of-volunteering/
Salleh, Anna. “Volunteering Can Be Bad for Your Health.” ABC, Abc.net.au, 17 May 2004, www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/05/17/1108476.htm.
Lewton, Amanda R., Nievar, M. Angela. “Strengthening Families Through Volunteerism: Integrating Family Volunteerism and Family Life Education.” EBSCO Industries Inc, October 2012 http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezvwcc.vccs.edu:2048/ehost/detail/detail?vid=11&sid=2610c323-fd01-460f-9f26-1a29bcd61ffc%40sdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=82248840&db=a9h
“Serious Mental Illness among Adults below the Poverty Line.” Serious Mental Illness Among Adults Below the Poverty Line, National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, 2015, www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2720/Spotlight-2720.html.