Across the US, students are encouraged to volunteer and participate in community service projects. Aidan Cassidy, a retired police officer from North Carolina, would like to see people of all ages feel encouraged to participate in service projects and volunteer their time. Volunteer efforts can help keep a community safe, improve quality of life for numerous people and reach the next generation.
A Chance for Growth
Participating in community service projects or volunteering with a local organization give you a chance to grow and challenge yourself, notes Aidan Cassidy. People become very comfortable in their day-to-day-lives and perhaps even a little bored with what they do each day. Spending a few hours a week volunteering with a group such as a church, neighborhood association, animal shelter or recreation center will allow you to develop new skills and sharpen under-used skills, all while helping those around you.
Community service can open people’s eyes to the reality of the world around them. Just as it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of routine and habit, it’s also easy to get caught in a bubble of security. The world around you might look fine because you aren’t used to seeing poverty or suffering. Donating your time and helping others lets you see the real problems in the world. Once you see that there are deeper issues in your community, you feel compelled to act and change them.
Thirty years on the police force showed AidanCassidy that there was a lot of pain and trouble in the world, even in his own community. That experience led him to pursue a career in local government after retirement and has encouraged him to help citizens to establish neighborhood watch groups around town. Neighborhood watch programs effectively open people’s eyes to the risks for crime around them and allow them to take steps to reduce crime and protect themselves, their families and the value of their homes.
Volunteering introduces you to a number of people from all walks of life and from a range of experiences. The more people you meet, the more you learn. Spending time working on service projects with people you might not have otherwise encountered allows you to learn things about the world and yourself you wouldn’t have perceived otherwise. The opportunity mix, mingle and befriend people of diverse backgrounds is essential for creating a tolerant world and one in which people are working towards common goals, no matter what their differences are.
Many people feel a strong desire to help others. Volunteering is a simple way to fulfill that desire. If you like teaching, you might volunteer at your local church to teach Sunday school or volunteer at an after school program to help kids with their homework or teach them a sport or other activity. When you volunteer, you help build your community while helping yourself to feel fulfilled.
Participating in community service projects isn’t just good for the health of your community. It’s also good for your physical health. Volunteering can help lower stress levels. Studies show that when you help others or pay attention to the needs of others, the amount of stress you feel drops. Aidan Cassidy notes, feelings of happiness and fulfillment can also improve the functioning of your immune system, making you less susceptible to illness.
Depending on the type of projects that you work on, volunteering can be a great physical workout, too, improving your overall well-being. Helping an organization such as Habitat for Humanity to build homes for people not only provides shelter, it helps you to build muscle tone and burn calories. Working on projects such as planting trees in a local park or mowing the lawns of elderly neighborhoods beautifies the world while helping you to get in shape.
Ways to Get Involved
There are plenty of community service opportunities available, notes Aidan Cassidy. Churches are often a good place to look to find volunteer programs or service opportunities. If you don’t go to church, you can find plenty of opportunities through your local government or by looking up volunteer programs in your area.
You might have a specific area you want to focus on, such as helping abused animals, neglected children or battered women. If so, contact organizations in your area that provide assistance in those areas and ask them if they have volunteer opportunities or how you can help. Many charity organizations are happy to work with dedicated volunteers.