Volunteering is an activity that helps both the giver and the receiver. It is a huge part of philanthropic traditions for hundreds of years. We volunteer because we feel connected to a cause or an organization and want to help them in their work. We know there’s a lot that has to be done. While we can’t do everything, we can lighten the load that has to be carried.
Volunteers contribute time, space, skills, blood, plasma… the list is long! They show up and make sure the work continues. They teach, mentor, coach, counsel and guide where relevant. During the lockdown, volunteers distributed food parcels, organized PPE kits, acted as contact tracers and took up whatever tasks were needed. Their altruism makes a better world possible for all of us, and that too at no cost. We all benefit from their generosity.
Volunteering is not for the other
Interestingly, studies have found that volunteering benefits the volunteer too. Turns out being a volunteer can make you feel healthier and happier. Farah Dottiwala, a volunteer with Welfare of Stray Dogs, an animal welfare NGO, resonates with a feeling of joy and peace as a result of her volunteering efforts. “With a routine that has become more and more materialistic and frivolous, volunteering gives me the joy of being me. Unlike what people like to believe, volunteering is not a charity that is done to the opposite creature. Rather, it is done for the inner peace and satisfaction of oneself. Invariably, it gives me more joy than anything else in this world. Loving a dog and feeling sympathetic towards an ailing creature is simple but constantly working towards its well-being is challenging. The inspiration I get from people who run the organization drives me to thrive harder towards a cause I truly believe in.”
The March of Dimes
There are amazing examples of what happens when people pool their time, money, skills and energy to tackle complex problems. The vaccine for polio is a well-loved story. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt lost use of his legs when he contracted polio as an adult. He was motivated to work towards treatment of polio, which affected many children at the time, with an acquaintance, Basil O’Connor. There was no treatment for the disease at the time. It seemed like an expensive and challenging task.
In 1938, a campaign appealed to American citizens to send a dime (considered a small amount, 1/10th of a dollar) to the President’s office on his birthday to help fight polio. They stated that if a million people sent in one dime, they would have $100,000. To their surprise, they received lakhs of coins adding up to $268,000, many of them from children. The effort was called the “March of Dimes”, with the media calling the coins a “silver tide which actually swamped the White House.” The money was used to fund research into a vaccine for polio. Jonas Salk was one of the researchers who received funding. He went on to develop a vaccine that was approved for use in 1955. He, in turn, didn’t patent the vaccine or earn any profits from his study as he wanted it to be cheaply and universally available!
There’s so much the world can gain when we give to a causes greater than ourselves. So go ahead and become a volunteer. It could change your life…and the world!