Benefits of benevolence

The value of student volunteerism

Photo provided by Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg

The benefits of volunteerism are virtually infinite. Whether you are interested in advancing your employment opportunities, building a network, or making an impact in your community, there are plenty of reasons for you to exercise your altruistic side.

And there is a myriad of media in which you can practice your compassion.

For Lisa Reed, University of Manitoba human nutritional sciences student and long-term volunteer, it was at the Children’s Hospital.

“What are you interested in? What are you passionate about? Find that and work with it. If you want to work at a hospital, that’s great. If you like working with animals, work with animals,” Reed said.

“I was looking for volunteer opportunities and I ended up seeing a poster or something at the university. I applied, and they gave me a call and placed me where they felt I’d be a good fit, which happened to be the Children’s Hospital in-patient playroom.”

Reed’s job is to play with the kids at the hospital and keep them entertained – though the parents also appreciate a listening ear.

“I think the most rewarding part for me is seeing kids smile and have fun, even in a stressful situation,” said Reed.

“No matter how stressed you think you are with a paper and a midterm and other assignments, you can’t be stressed when you’re at the Children’s Hospital. What the families are going through is a gazillion times more stressful than what you’re enduring as a student. It really puts things in perspective.”

While volunteerism is advantageous for all involved, it has benefits that serve students particularly well.

“I think a lot of people would say that the biggest benefit of volunteering is that it looks good on a resume and that it is good to have that kind of experience,” said Reed, who has volunteered at the Children’s Hospital for two and a half years.

“And it helps if you have volunteered somewhere for a while. Consider it to be a commitment. Don’t just try it out for a week. Don’t go into it thinking you can just quit. I think that the commitment is important, stick with it.”

But the benefits of volunteering go beyond having something to add to your resume.

“Giving back to the community is a big benefit, too. You get real-world community experience that you wouldn’t get in a classroom and likely wouldn’t get at a job.”

In the classroom – and frankly in life – we have a tendency to think more about the self than about the things surrounding the self. We live in an individualistic society, where the focus is on getting ahead and not helping others get ahead.

Shifting our focus from an individualistic to more collectivist ideology has the potential to radically change our world, and we will all reap the benefits.