April in the USA sees the awareness-raising celebration of volunteers and volunteering: National Volunteer Week. The day is intended to give volunteer organizations the opportunity to celebrate those who donate their time.
Each year, during the third week of April, community-based organizations all over the United States celebrate National Volunteer Week.
April is also considered National Volunteer Month. Many community-based organizations dedicate the entire month to recognizing their volunteers and encouraging others to get involved.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle suggested that the essence of life is “To serve others and do good.”
The annual National Volunteer Week gives organizations and wider society a chance to celebrate and thank the volunteers that donate their time and efforts to better the community and to recognize the impact that volunteers have on their communities.
Donating your time, effort, and skills to help others is not entirely a one-way exchange, however. Research shows that altruistic volunteers gain significant benefits from their service.
Evidence of volunteerism’s physical effects can be found in a 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in Psychology and Aging. It found that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. That’s significant because high blood pressure is an important health indicator; it is a contributary risk factor in heart disease, strokes, and premature death.
Lead study author Rodlescia Sneed, a doctoral candidate in social and health psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, said that volunteering may also reduce stress. “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes.”
If you’re interested in giving up some of your time in the service of your local community, volunteer organizations suggest that you begin by looking for an organization that is a close match to your own interests.
Ideally, you should look for organizations whose mission aligns with your interests and values. The role you take on should be a good match for your skills. You should also visit the organization and talk with other volunteers before you start. Does the organization or role you’re interested in seems likely to meet your expectations?
You can find opportunities to volunteer on online matching sites such as Volunteer Match. You can often find local organizations through local government sites or church groups. Or for national volunteering opportunities, reach out to Americorps, Volunteers of America, or the American Red Cross. For international volunteer opportunities, try UN Volunteers, Habitat for Humanity, or the Peace Corp.
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