By Lucy Fry

Lucy studied Psychology at Portsmouth University and then went on to a career in Human Resources.  In the last twenty years she has spent time client side in operational Change and HR Management roles for both large and SME organisations and supplier side in HRIS Product Management, Pre Sales and Consultant roles.  She’s learned that even when she has a busy life with work and family commitments, allocating some time or supporting a worthy cause should not be delegated to the “too hard basket” for her own wellbeing.

Introduction

Did you know that 1st to 7th June week national Volunteers Week? Over this and my next two blogs I am going to consider the nature of Volunteering; its function in our communities, its impact on our health and how benefits can be leveraged in the modern workplace.

Today, I am focussing on community.

The late spell of snow this year brought about some interesting and lovely threads to my Facebook feed; namely a childhood neighbour offering to give local nurses and doctors lifts to and from their hospital in his game keeping 4WD and a local taxi company offering to run errands for local old and vulnerable people for free.

All is good with the world.

Well, Steve (the gamekeeper) has always been a kind sort, so I’ll put that down to genuine altruism.  And for the taxi company – it’s a kind and thoughtful gesture which should serve them well in the short-term future at least.   When I need a cab next, I will call them and not a random taxi company and when any of the people who took up that offer need a cab, I suspect they will too.  I did for a moment, cynically wonder how many old and vulnerable people use Facebook to see and take up that offer, but to be fair to them they did say they had already contacted their usual customers to check whether they needed any assistance.

After George Michael passed away on Christmas 2017, many stories of his generosity emerged which were publicly unknown while he was alive.  But there are many celebrities who shout about their charitable activities and sometimes I suspiciously wonder at their genuine intention.  It’s great to raise awareness about worthy causes to encourage the general public raising funds; but do they actually put their hand in their own pockets like George Michael did?

So my first question is, when are acts of altruism truly kind and not a method of self-promotion? Then if it is, does it matter if it helps a cause?  So, I started Googling altruism and more specifically, volunteering.  Volunteering is spending our time on a cause for free.  What I actually found was an abundance of evidence that suggests helping others is hugely beneficial for the helper, not just for self-promotion.

Community & Social Benefits

Volunteering, of course, has a positive impact on the community.  It allows us to connect and get involved in our community to make it better.  Public areas look more attractive, vulnerable people get to appointments, avoid loneliness, and receive support for basic needs, valuable and essential services and facilities are maintained, junior sporting skills improved and funds are raised.  The benefits are endless but they are also two way. There is value for the volunteer and our families just as much as for the community.  It enables us to make new friends, expand our networks and social skills.  We can learn about other opportunities, resources and events through volunteering that we would otherwise miss.

Next time, I consider Volunteering and its impact on our mental and physical wellbeing.