Volunteering benefits both the volunteer and the recipient. We often focus on the impact that volunteers make on the lives of those they support. Does the volunteer also benefit from their volunteer engagement?
In May 2017, The Mayo Clinic Health System posted an article citing research that shows there are 6 health benefits of volunteering.
• Volunteering can decrease your risk of developing depression.
• Volunteering will give you a sense of purpose and teach you valuable skills.
• Volunteering helps you stay physically and mentally active.
• Volunteering may reduce stress.
• Volunteering may help you live longer.
• Volunteering helps you meet people and develop new relationships.
We met with volunteer, Sharon Gotter, to gain an insight into how volunteering has made an impact on her life.
Prior to the pandemic, Sharon Gotter volunteered in the computer lab and enjoyed interacting face-to-face with the members. When all on-site programming was temporarily put on-hold in March 2020, she looked for other ways to continue her volunteer work. Volunteers were needed to remotely connect with our members by phone to provide support and referrals where needed. Sharon joined the team of Telephone Check-in volunteers and committed to calling and connecting with members on a weekly basis to see how they were dealing with the challenges of the pandemic.
In conversation with Sharon, members share how they miss their family and grandchildren and how they regret not being able to socialize with friends. Many have relatives out of town and due to the lockdown, visits were not permitted. They share how lonely and isolated they feel. Families and friends were not able to gather to celebrate, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestone events. Many were anxious and worried about how much time they have left to enjoy life.
The pandemic has affected everyone. In her volunteer role, Sharon provides support to the members but she is also experiencing the challenges of the pandemic. Sometimes there is nothing new to share. Surprisingly, one of the topics discussed on the calls is what to cook for supper.
Sharon’s shares how good she feels at the end of each call knowing how thankful the member is for her support. She says that some calls last for five minutes, some for over an hour and some calls are very difficult as people are facing personal challenges. For some who have lost a spouse, family member or friend, grieving alone is painful. They just want someone to listen and knowing that she is that someone is her motivation to continue making these calls.
Over the months the conversations have changed. At the beginning some felt a feeling of hopelessness and uncertainty and then gradually they learned to adapt and cope with the pandemic. Now, the conversations are about how eager people are to come back to the centre to meet their friends and participate in the activities. They have confidence knowing that an increasing number of people are receiving their second dose of the vaccine.
Volunteering has a huge benefit on the mind, body and soul. Making a positive difference in someone’s life leads to increased satisfaction and happiness.
Sharon explains what volunteering has meant to her.
The people that I’ve talked to, in the past year and a half during the pandemic, do not know how they are helping me as well as me helping them. I’m doing a good deed. That is what a mitzvah is. And so were they. It’s rewarding.