I’ve always been interested in volunteering and helping out people in my community who are in need of support, but I never thought that helping others could ever help me. For two years I volunteered with Special Olympics Ireland who are a sports organisation for people with an intellectual disability.
When I was 16 I got involved through my brother who was already a volunteer at the time, who asked me to help out because they were short on volunteers. Initially I was reluctant when I found out id have to get up early on a Saturday morning and leave my bed, which for most 16 years old is damn near impossible. However, I was persuaded nonetheless as I knew it was the right thing to do as I was really at nothing any way. I at first, I only thought the benefits for me is that it would look good in my CV, but I soon found out was that was completely wrong.
I’m not going to lie, it was a struggle getting up some mornings after being out that Friday night reeking of tan and hair so sticky from god knows what being spilt on it, where you’d do anything to just roll over and go back to sleep. But, for some reason no matter how grumpy I was or how much of a bad mood I was in coming to volunteer, I always left in a good mood and with a smile on my face. For the first time I think ever, it made me really proud of myself.
My role volunteering with Special Olympics Ireland was to help train the athletes for upcoming competitions. So, every week we would record their running times and practise with athletes competing in their chosen event i.e. throwing a soft ball or javelin. So, when the competitions finally came around and the medals would be pouring in from the athletes on our team its really rewarding knowing your efforts helped a little in achieving that. All those early Saturday morning spent outside on a mucky field in the rain, would all be worthwhile. As witnessing the pure joy in the athletes faces when they won a medal really melted my heart.
People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides a chance to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. Here are just some of the benefits that I gained from my time volunteering:
Building bonds and Friendships
Due to your shared interested you make friends with people in your community you wouldn’t normally socialise with.
Volunteering can help improve your self-esteem and motivate you to lead a healthier and happier life.
Volunteering can open the door to new learning opportunities that you may have not previously considered or thought you were capable of doing
Experience Improved Health and Well-being:
Many people who volunteer say that helping others gives them a good feeling inside, something that researchers call a “helpers high”
Volunteering increases self-confidence.
You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment and the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Niamh McNally is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter at @Niamh_McNally or LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/niamh-mcnally-7a7079120/