The Art of Giving Back: Becoming a Volunteer

If you’ve got an itch to go out and help others or know someone in need, it might be time to get out and volunteer. Volunteering is the act of helping others without expecting anything in return, and it’s been around since the 13th century.

The Progression of Volunteerism

The first acts of service associated with volunteering come from religious practices during medieval times in Britain, when people were encouraged to help the poor or sick. Estimates place as many as 500 hospitals run by volunteers in and around England in the 13th century. But the actual term volunteer was first coined in 1755 and meant ‘to offer oneself for military service.” Then, in the 19th century, volunteering became more organized and formal, with the creation of the YMCA in London in 1844. During the Civil War, Clara Barton rendered aid to soldiers, and her efforts formed the Red Cross. More organizations formed in the 20th century, helping give those that wanted to provide support a place to focus their efforts and those that needed help a way to get it. Now, with the internet, volunteer options are endless, and people are more connected than ever. 

The Benefits of Volunteering

Giving back to your community can benefit you, too. Here are several ways you might not have thought of:

  • helps to reduce stress and combat depression
  • connects you to others and gives you a community
  • enables you to make friends or work on social skills
  • adds to your resume and helps you learn new skills
  • provides you with a sense of purpose

How to Volunteer

When choosing where to volunteer, there are several things to consider. You’ll need to think about how much time you have to offer, how far you can travel, the types of things that interest you, your skillset, and what organizations have a need at that time. You don’t have to limit yourself, either. You can choose to volunteer at multiple places, during a set time-frame, or only once a year. You can give of your time, money, services, or whatever fills a need. Just the act of helping others is all it involves, and that can mean a multitude of various things. When you think you’ve found the way you’d like to give back, visit or contact them to learn more about how you can get involved. 

Where to Volunteer

With so many places and people that have needs, you won’t have to look far to find a place to volunteer. If you have kids in school, consider volunteering there. If you love animals, contact a local shelter and help walk the dogs. Visit a senior center and ask about spending time with the patients. Youth organizations are always looking for volunteers, and religious facilities need volunteers too. Or use a service to help you find opportunities near you.

One Last Note About Volunteering

No matter how you decide to get involved, it’s the simple act of helping that matters. Today, volunteering is safer than ever, with paperwork required and sometimes even background checks. This may seem tedious, but it ensures the safety of all involved. Be sure you ask questions so you will know what’s expected of you and don’t be afraid to find a new opportunity if the one you tried isn’t a good fit. Volunteering should be a rewarding and fun experience for all involved.