Just Do It!

April 25, 2017

National Volunteer Week is April 23-29, 2017. Quinnipiack Valley Health District wishes to thank all those who volunteer in the community and who have committed to helping QVHD in times of emergencies. You do make a difference. When we work together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals. We build a collective power to make a difference and keep our communities safe.  

There are many, many opportunities to volunteer around the New Haven area. The type of agency seeking volunteers ranges from a focus on health issues to advocacy to education to hunger. As funding continues to shrink for many of these agencies, they rely on volunteers to fill in the gaps in order to serve their clientele. If you are interested in volunteering, but don’t know where to start, try contacting: churches, your town’s human services department, senior centers, local civic organizations, libraries, schools, hospitals or nursing homes. Visit the United Way InfoLine webpage, key words “volunteer opportunites” or www.volunteermatch.org.  Volunteering does not have to be through an organized group. You can help a friend or a neighbor. You can visit an elderly shut-in. You can help an overwhelmed mom in the grocery store. It may seem small to you, but to the person you helped, to the person you showed that you cared, it is huge.

The reasons why people volunteer are many.  But the outcomes for those who are the recipients are the same. Many famous quotes illustrate how volunteering changes lives and the world:  “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest of intentions” (Oscar Wild) “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; That is to have succeeded.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”(Winston Churchill) “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)

While it was always known that volunteering helps others, social science research has documented surprising health benefits for the volunteers. Volunteering can increase your overall sense of well-being. It can increase your level of happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and sense of control over your life. It has also been shown to decrease depression and improve sleep. Sometimes, life changes, such as a death, a divorce or the empty-nest syndrome can cause feelings of loneliness or depression. Volunteering gets you away from those feelings for a while and helps you to view your life in a broader context. Volunteering can help you to become more social and less isolated.

There have also been some studies done on volunteering and its effect on chronic pain. Research has shown that volunteering can lessen or alleviate chronic pain. How this works is not known, but some study participants relate that volunteering gives them a sense of connection to others and a purpose for themselves. Perhaps this connection and purpose leaves less time to focus on self.

Volunteering can also help you gain entry to a new profession or field. You might learn new skills or learn about a different profession. Some career counselors recommend volunteering as a first step into workforce re-entry. Many employers will hire a person with volunteer experience over someone who has no volunteer experience.

No matter what your reason for volunteering, you will undoubtedly reap great rewards from the experience. People volunteering together become “people power” and are sometimes the sole reason something gets accomplished! Quinnipiack Valley Health District, the public health department for Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge, celebrate the service of all those who volunteer.  Visit  www.qvhd.org for health-related information and to  “like us” on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.