Many Studies Promote Volunteerism
Innumerable studies have revealed that volunteering has beneficial developmental consequences for volunteers, especially for adolescents and youths. One particular study found that adolescents who become involved in volunteer activities have higher educational plans and aspirations, higher grade point averages, higher academic self-esteem, and a higher intrinsic motivation towards school work. In another study involving college students, it was found that volunteering not only has positive effects on academic development, but also enhances students’ commitment to their communities, promotes racial understanding, influences social values, and helps in the development of important life/soft skills, such as leadership ability, self-confidence, critical-thinking skills, and conflict-resolution skills.
A volunteer is someone who contributes his/her time, skills or services to an organisation without receiving any financial compensation for his/her work. There is a growing number of universities which have become engaged in encouraging their undergraduate students to participate in some form of volunteer service, while others incorporate community service into their curriculums, whether as a grade requirement or on a voluntary basis. And it is also found that top leadership in higher education has become increasingly supportive of community service as part of the undergraduate experience, and this can be seen in the phenomenal growth of community networks between universities and community organisations.
Although there are some people who might be sceptical about the value of a volunteer experience, many are aware of the various benefits of volunteerism. Volunteering helps spread the message of healing, love and hope. It brings relief and comfort to those who experience deprivation or cruelty in their lives, such as war refugees, the poor, sick and homeless, orphans or victims of natural disasters and family abuse, and many others. Alternatively, there are other volunteer organisations which deal with environmental issues, the promotion of sports or the arts, or the protection of animals. There is no way to quantify the degree of solace and empathy offered in a crisis or the relief someone feels at being protected, sheltered or fed. The value of such support garnered from volunteerism, whether psychological or emotional, is difficult to articulate – so simple, yet so profound.
Sometimes volunteering may even help the volunteer to handle his/her own personal problems and struggles, and improve his/her own self-confidence and motivation in life. Furthermore, being active and busy, as compared to leading a sedentary lifestyle (staying at home watching movies or playing computer games), can help people rejuvenate and drive out the negative vibes in their lives.
The Incalculable Worth of Volunteerism
At Wittenborg, volunteerism is not something new. Students are often encouraged to be involved in the various volunteer activities organised by Wittenborg itself or by other external agencies. Volunteer activities by students and staff are reported by Wittenborg in its news on a regular basis (see the end of the article for some examples). Here is a reflection on volunteerism by one of Wittenborg’s students who prefers to remain anonymous. This third year IBA (International Business Administration) student has been volunteering at a relief organisation for the needy, based in Amsterdam, twice a week since April this year. This is what the student has to say:
"As college students, we may feel the need or pressure to take on many new responsibilities since we are maturing into adulthood. These responsibilities encompass becoming more independent, such as finding a job and fending for ourselves. Many students at this time, therefore, have a lot on their plates and lead busy lives. They go to class, do self-studying, but at the same time try to fulfil social lives and keep up with their friends. Additionally, they very often have part-time jobs in order to maintain their lifestyles and/or to pay for basic necessities.
In the grand scheme of things, all these activities are ultimately for the benefit of the student him/herself. They only want to partake in activities which are self-serving, that only benefit them and no one else. Anything, in their opinions, which does not offer them social, financial or academic gain, might be ignored. They often live and become stuck in their own bubbles, their own little world which includes school, friends, job and sometimes family, all the while ignoring the wider community and society they live in. They seldom think or care about people outside their bubble or refuse to believe that these people matter in their lives. They think that since they are still at university, they will only deal with these people in the outside world after they graduate and enter the working world.
This kind of thinking may affect the person’s cognitive, physiological and psychological well-being. When their needs are not fulfilled (lack of money, lack of friends, failure in exams), negative thoughts could emerge resulting in mental exhaustion, which ultimately leads to depression. Volunteerism can help to alleviate these problems. You may be asking “Why would I want to help others when I cannot even help myself?” Well, the worth of volunteerism is incalculable. Volunteerism forces students to be selfless, altruistic and helps them to see the bigger picture. It helps students to branch out and find friends with perspectives different from their own. Volunteering will help them to realise that they are a small part of something bigger, the community, the society, the country and the world. Their contribution may be small, and their acts may only affect one person or one organisation, but it will have a ripple effect which can ultimately affect many people in many different places.
That is the beauty of volunteerism. It not only helps me to help others, but it has helped me to help myself, to unleash the better person that is inside me. I may not be compensated monetarily, but I am sure my act has touched and improved the lives of others. And that, by itself, is a good enough compensation, for me."
Volunteerism in Adolescence: A Process Perspective, Monica Kirkpatrick Jonhson, Timothy Beebe, Jeylan T. Mortimer & Mark Snyder, Journal of Research on Adolescence, 8(3), pp 309-332.
Long-Term Effects of Volunteerism During the Undergraduate Years, Alexander W. Astin, Linda J. Sax & Juan Avalos, The Review of Higher Education 22.2 pp 187-202.
by Hanna Abdelwahab