5 Reasons Why Volunteers Matter For Community Development
As our society continues to evolve into greater dependency on technology, with stronger relationships to the machines that dominate our lives, are volunteers important anymore?
It takes effort, it takes structure and it takes caring to make a community work. Volunteers put in the effort, build the structure and bring us the heart that keeps our communities glued together.
Here are 5 reasons why volunteers matter for community development. We’ll cover the social gaps volunteers fill, and why relying on technology or the government alone can’t replace the importance of volunteerism.
#1 Volunteers fill important social gaps that can’t be fixed by technology or automation
We are developing incredible machines that can talk to us, do things for us and even care for us. For example, in Japan, Robots work in nursing homes take care of elders. But as amazing as these machines are, they do not have that extra thing we call human spirit or human heart. We have needed human relationships since the beginning of our time, and that will not change anytime soon.
For example, human connectedness promotes better health, reduces stress and increases a sense of wellbeing that machines can’t provide.
#2 Volunteers make progress faster and more relevant than the government
Over time, we have gotten this crazy idea that all of our wellbeing is the responsibility of the government and our only responsibility is to contribute to the economy by working and spending money. If we have a problem, the government should fix it.
There are some things best left to government like building roads, providing defence and police and setting the rules so that we all enjoy a sense of fairness. Governments can create some basic conditions for happiness, but there are things government can’t do and one of them is make us happy.
Much of our happiness comes from the connectedness, belonging and caring we receive from and give to those who live around us. Volunteers provide a vital role in developing a sense of connectedness, belonging and caring in our communities.
For example, when volunteers from the community visit seniors or run the community breakfast, it has a different feel than when paid professionals do the same activities. It’s like family taking care of family, neighbours caring for neighbours and that just can’t be replaced by paid professionals no matter how kind their intentions.
Related Reading: When Volunteers Don’t Show Up
#3 Volunteers lead by example, and encourage more people into action
It used to be that everyone had a sense of responsibility to the community. Kids could run free with the parents feeling secure that someone would be keeping an eye on them. People made an effort to know their neighbours and reach out to them to offer or receive help. We didn’t call that volunteering, we called that good citizenship.
Although times have changed and we have our reasons for not doing these things any more (they fall into the categories of fear and busyness), looking out for the safety and wellbeing of each other is still important. Volunteers lead by example for the rest of us.
We are the experts in our communities. By spending most of our time in our community, we know what is great and what needs improvement. We have all the resources and skills we need to make those improvements. And no one will do it better than us people who live here. Volunteering to be part of the solution makes for a much better solution.
Just think about it for a second. Which will give a better outcome. Volunteers supported with knowledge and skill to engage their neighbours for deciding what should be in a neighbourhood park, or the engineers at city hall deciding what kind of park you should have?
#4 Volunteering improves health and mortality rates!
As reported by thousands of people and supported by research, volunteering makes us happy. It creates social connections, builds trust and satisfies our need to have meaning in our lives. Doing something for others and knowing others care about you are the most important factors of deep happiness.
More than happiness, volunteering enables you to live longer and makes for a healthier life while you are alive.
For example, people who give of their time voluntarily have a 40% chance of reduced high blood pressure and also experience less stress and better mental health.
But this doesn’t just apply to the volunteers. Happier communities where people know each other, belong and care for each other also have better health outcomes and greater longevity.
#5 Volunteers are the people who make connections, belonging and caring possible.
Volunteers are the people who create community projects where people come together to do things with each other. This is how new connections within the community are made and a sense of belonging is created. Volunteers are the people who reach out to the lonely and isolated in their community and make sure they are OK while providing them with some social comfort. Volunteers are vital to creating community events where the whole community can come out and feel that sense of belonging to something more than a small circle.
You might call volunteers community builders. We do and we have a place where they can find like minded people.
High functioning communities are complex places like a great tapestry fabric. They are where people know each other, belong with each other and care about each other. Through our interactions with each other we provide ourselves with the foundation of security, sufficiency and happiness. It is the volunteers who weave the fabric together into a beautiful tapestry.
Machines and technology have made our lives more comfortable than ever before. But should our cell phone really be our best friend? Do our neighbours really not matter to us? Is human connection face-to-face and hug-to-hug not that important?
If volunteers are what is keeping community alive, then how do we recruit and retain volunteers for our community projects?
Get the free mini book that has a proven record for recruiting volunteers. The 5 Secrets for Recruiting Volunteers.
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