One important sphere of activity impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has been volunteerism. Thousands of people accustomed to showing up in person to tutor schoolchildren, mentor budding entrepreneurs, staff information desks at hospitals, give tours of regional and national parks, etc., are on hiatus for the time being.
Temporary limits on life-affirming relief and assistance have been difficult for those receiving aid, as well as those providing it. It is difficult to remain patient about this, but until enough people have been vaccinated, we still need to restrict close contact with others outside of our immediate circle.
It's easy to see the benefits recipients of services gain because they are typically spelled out in mission statements of organizations providing services. It's easier to forget how much good giving to others with no expectation of return does for those volunteering.
Numerous benefits of volunteering have been documented in studies over the years. One is the connections volunteers make: they not only help make their communities better for others, they feel more connected and fulfilled in the process. Volunteers also often make new friends and expand their professional networks.
Volunteering can also enhance friendships. In addition to routine activities, friends who volunteer together for a cause often strengthen their bonds by adding a new dimension to their relationship. The same holds true for families that work together for a good cause.
For people on the shy side, volunteering can help them strengthen their social skills and overcome resistance to speaking up. It is also a great way for people new to the workforce to gain skills that can become marketable when mastered.
And that's not all. Volunteering has been documented to help reduce stress and anxiety, largely due to the benefits of getting people's minds off of their own difficulties for a time while also creating meaningful relationships with others. Also beneficial is that volunteers often gain a renewed sense of purpose, new perspectives on life and greater self-confidence.
So lack of volunteer opportunities is a great loss. However, just as many of us have learned to work solo from home and shine during virtual meetings and classes, we are now taking advantage of remote volunteer opportunities.
If you have the urge to serve others, here are several options to consider. You can:
When picking your volunteer niche, check with groups in your area to see where your skills and interests are a good match for your community's needs. The bottom line is that doing good feels good, and that's an uplifting thing.
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