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September 9, 2019

A Helping Hand May Be Bigger Than You Think

People often volunteer to make a change in our communities, or to gain knowledge and new experiences. Although these causes are notable, we may not realize that volunteering has the ability to impact our lives, as well as others beyond the communities we work in.


Firstly, volunteering can aid organizational causes and contribute to the overall welfare of a large community. For example, teaching in Wisma Cheshire, a non-profit organization for disabled people in South Jakarta, is essential for the running of the organization as they align with the organization’s mission and vision, which includes the independence of the disabled community, as well as teaching vocational subjects. Organizations such as Wisma Cheshire are vital, as the disabled community has not yet received equal rights to live in Indonesia. Data from Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional (Bappenas) states that only 25% of the disabled community can work in the formal, as well as informal sector. However, volunteers can aim to improve this figure through teaching disabled people and improving their skills, making them become more competent. For instance, based on an interview with Wisma Cheshire’s programme manager, Fendo Parama Sardi, Wisma Cheshire’s alumni have been employed in companies such as Bank BRI, Bank Mandiri, as well as government departments such as Kemkominfo (Kementrian Informasi dan Informatika). This employment is due partly to the volunteers’ help. Hence, volunteering may potentially help change and improve communities at a large scale.


In the perspective of volunteers, various skills can be gained through volunteering; skills practical for use in life. For example, in Batu Kapal Conservation, conservation volunteers are put into groups to monitor wild orangutans, building interpersonal and teamwork skills. Through teaching in Wisma Cheshire, or Yayasan KDM, a non-profit organization for street children in Bekasi, volunteers for education are able to enhance their communication skills. Furthermore, the challenges faced when teaching street children such as those in Yayasan KDM, due to different backgrounds and upbringings, considerably increases our problem solving skills when figuring out ways for the children to understand topics. These various skills, which are looked upon by employers and universities can help volunteers in the workplace or in educational institutions.


            Lastly, volunteering positively influences our physical and mental health. Research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that older adults who volunteer for at least 200 hours per year decrease their risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, by 40 percent. Furthermore, an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health. Therefore, volunteers can help protect themselves from high blood pressure, and may in fact live longer.


Mentally, volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety, through social interaction, working with others and building relationships within communities. It also combats depression, as the social aspect of volunteering when surrounded with people with the same interest builds a strong support system, which is important in dealing with depression. Apart from that, being helpful to others is a pleasurable experience, resulting in volunteers to become happy people. Doing good for others provides a sense of accomplishment, hence boosting self-confidence, as well as keeping volunteers’ minds of their worries, become mentally stimulated, and thus provides a sense of purpose within volunteers.


Considering the scale at which volunteering can affect our societies, the various skills gained from volunteering for use in life, as well as the significant, positive impact it has on our mental and physical health, there are no better reasons to become the catalyst for change and start volunteering.


Writing by Farah Nasution