Volunteering – a work of heart
This year’s Volunteers Week took place 1-7 June. We currently work with over 60 volunteers who help RSVP deliver vital support to survivors in various ways, from direct client care (counselling, helpline) to marketing, fundraising and research. But, why volunteer? Here’s a little insight from one of our amazing volunteer counsellors.
When I tell people that I volunteer as a counsellor, I’m usually met with hushed silence. I suspect I’m sometimes dismissed as a bit of a ‘do-gooder.’ One of those irritating people with too much time on their hands who make a big deal of their selflessness.
None of these labels quite fit. I’m certainly no angel. And while my empty nest has relieved me of big financial burdens, I still have to bring home some bread.
Maybe the real question underlying ‘why volunteer?’ is curiosity about my motives? Doing “owt for nowt” makes little sense in a society where value is quantified in an hourly rate. Never mind that I don’t properly value myself by working for nothing, what possible worth could voluntary work have for the world at large? I think we all know the answer to that one. Volunteering probably contributes billions to the UK economy, though that’s the very least of its virtues, even in a society that monetises everything. Its big-heartedness can be felt in every household, community, town and city across the land, providing everything that makes life worth living.
The fact that I’m not paid for my voluntary work is less a reflection of its worth – more a critique on how we organise our economy.
But none of this really explains why over 19 million people in the UK choose to volunteer every year. I suspect that for most, like me, the motivation is a simple one. I absolutely love what I do. It stirs my heart and expands my mind. Most of all it connects me deeply to people in a way that would never be sanctioned in the commercial world where profit rules. I get to work in a great organisation which is fired by compassion and delivered with the kind of professionalism that would put the big corporates to shame.
Volunteering is all about nurturing social relationships, the ‘greatest single cause of happiness’ according to psychologist Michael Argyle. That’s probably why RSVP’s 62 volunteers have a spring in their step. They apply their skills with love, whether they’re staffing the helpline, serving on the board, making arts and crafts, raising funds, doing IT and admin, overseeing the website and social media or offering counselling to clients.
They know that if you want to be happy for a day, buy a Porsche. But if you want to be happy for a lifetime, volunteer.