In week five of the 5 Ways To Wellbeing we explore “Give” – how participation in social and community life increases wellbeing.
With news headlines and social media seemingly to be constantly putting before us a stream of social challenges the world today can seem a rather scary and overwhelming place. The range and scale of such challenges can make it seem difficult, if not impossible, to work out how one can possibly start to bring about positive change.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
― Charles Dickens
Yet here in Reading there are 1000’s of people giving their time, skill and talent as volunteers to help bring about positive change, helping our community and its people face up to these challenges.
There are a huge number of organisations who use volunteers in their work. Making a regular commitment can be a great option if you have time to give and can fit volunteering into your schedule.
Less frequent, flexible and one-off volunteering
With study, work and family commitments regular volunteering may seem to be one demand too many. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get involved. There are opportunities to make a real difference that require less then a few hours a month and others that can be completed flexibly around competing commitments. A great example of this is the 1.3 million people giving blood in the UK, an act that can help save a life!
There are even opportunities that can be done on a one-off basis. Our Team Reading initiative brings together those able to help on a one-off basis, keeping them informed of upcoming events and providing a simplified sign-up process. The range of events that Team Reading volunteers help out at is varied and growing, take a look at how Team Reading volunteers helped this Tea Dance go with a swing!
Besides the kinds of formal volunteering within organisations outlined above there are schemes that allow for less formal opportunities to get involved in community life that at the same time add in an explicit element of reciprocity. The Oxford Road Timebank provides a way of sharing what you’re good at and getting help back in return. Timebanking is a tool for bringing people together so that they can help each other learning new things and getting jobs done. It is based on the principle that everyone has skills, knowledge or contacts of use to other people in the community. One hour spent helping someone earns one time credit, which can then be used to buy an hour of someone’s time. Reading LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme) run a similar scheme that also includes goods as well as services.
Other ways of getting involved
There are lot’s of other ways that you can participate in social and community life. Reading Soup is a community-focussed, grassroots crowd-funding project, run by and for SOUPers, who aim to bring together like-minded individuals to share ideas aimed at benefiting the local community. In exchange for a small entrance fee you will get a bowl of soup, entertainment and the chance to hear short pitches about local community projects. Once you hear the pitches you decide who to give your vote to with the winning pitch taking away the combined entrance fee for their project!
Our town plays host to a wide range of regular no or low cost social, sports and educational activities. Some are part of services delivered by organisations and others are arranged on a more informal basis. To name just a few:
There are a wide variety of community and fundraising events taking place throughout the year. From music and dance to arts and crafts and a whole bunch in between, there is always something to get involved with and you can give your support simply be being part of it. Keep an eye on what’s coming up on our Community and Fundraising event page
The feeling gained by getting involved and making a difference can help build a sense of self-efficacy in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, perhaps making the world seem a little less scary. And that’s not all, a raft of research suggests that volunteers can accrue a range of wellbeing boosts. Examples include:
Increased quality of life – Volunteering in later life decreased depression and social isolation. It was also found to boost quality of life and life satisfaction.
Ability to cope with ill health: Volunteering can help people come to terms with their own illness and help take their mind off their own problems. One study found that it helped them perform better in their own daily lives.
Improved self-esteem and sense of purpose: Volunteering can bring back your self-esteem and motivate you. Improved self-esteem can have an effect on other areas of your health and life.
Still not sure? Take a look at our Volunteering Stories series where local volunteers share their experiences.
Want a chat? Finding the right opportunity for you is an important first step, our volunteering team are happy to talk to you about the options available and help you to narrow down your search. Send us an email to arrange an appointment firstname.lastname@example.org
Ready to get going? Take a look at the 100+ opportunities on our volunteer matching site and start your volunteering journey today.