Is volunteering worth it?

Why do I volunteer?

From time to time, I and others ask me this question. The current trend with the younger generation is the “what’s in it for me?” and if it isn’t financial they will not usually be involved.

For me, there are three different levels of satisfaction based on the source of the success that derives the satisfaction – physical, psychological and spiritual.

I don’t get much out the physical aspect of volunteering, I just get in and do it, and give it my all and don’t expect physical rewards, but am happy if I do get them. However I get the most out the psychological success of volunteering, and to a lesser extent the spiritual aspect. I pride myself in being empathetic and I think it exposes me to the challenges that people face in the area in which I volunteer and I am driven to make their life better, even more so once diagnosed as type 2 diabetic.

My first exposure to volunteering was while serving in the Royal Australian Navy, where my ship raised money for the Barnardo’s charity. Sometimes it was simply placing a donation box on the gangway when we had an open ship for the public, to a bike race across Australia to beat the ship to get to Perth from Melbourne.

Being involved in those ventures and seeing the result of these labours, developed a sense of purpose to help my fellow man as much as I was capable.

After leaving the Royal Australian Navy and joining the Queensland Police Service, I was exposed to a lot of “victims of circumstance” and although it was difficult to separate my police persona from my charitable persona, I involved myself in a few community programs that would help make a difference, utilising both personas at once in some instances.

As time went by, I added to the role as President of the Glasshouse Bushwalkers Club Inc. to involvement with Bushwalking Queensland Inc. and on to involvement with Bushwalking Australia Inc. and my eyes were opened up to the bigger picture.  While my own club was floundering and unable to gain memberships, I was actively looking for ways to recruit new people.

Then I found out the same problem is occurring Australia-wide, to all clubs.

It was time to investigate research and possible remedies.

About the same time, I became the President of the Friends of the Deception Bay Conservation Park Inc. and through that work, received all kinds of rewards by volunteering my time. I received no personal gain, but the organisation received a lot of recognition including the Moreton Bay Regional Council Australia Day Environment Award in 2012.

This recognition was totally unexpected, but well received.

I found my major calling in life was volunteering my services to organisations so that they may grow, and I had no ambition to profit myself. Just collect the accolades that went along with it.

After a couple of years, it was identified that awareness of bushwalking clubs was lacking as most people did their own bushwalking and felt no need to belong to a club. Clubs provide insurance cover and professional leaders so that bushwalks can be enjoyed with minimal risk.

How do we increase the awareness? While pondering this, I was diagnosed as being type 2 diabetic, and through the assistance given by Diabetes Queensland, health care professionals and my dogged determination to improve my lifestyle, I found that by bushwalking I had removed the need for diabetes medication, lost a lot of weight, improved my blood pressure, and other health benefits gained.

I decided I should give back to Diabetes Queensland what I had gained from their support. I found from their fundraising activities that bushwalking was an active component of their fundraising. Consequently, I offered the services of bushwalkers to assist in fundraising and after some initial teething problems, the biggest fundraiser to date netted the expected amount of money, the recognition of the expertise of walk leaders, and the awareness of diabetes in the bushwalking community and how to handle diabetic bushwalkers.

The result of all of this has given me the biggest psychological boost, cemented my spiritual being in assisting people wherever I am able, as has always been a central tenet to my existence. All this even though there has been physical cost, but I feel this cost was the investment into the psychological and spiritual benefit gained.

For me therefore, volunteering gives me far greater rewards for the effort and cost I outlay, and I am satisfied that I can get the accolades when appropriate, or deemed fit, but don’t personally search for these accolades.

I may receive a salary for my job.  This job is not connected to the work I do in the organisations in which I am involved and volunteer.  This is the only plus…

The cost to volunteer may be great to me, but this is balanced out by the high level of satisfaction I receive that is not physical, and the rewards I feel are much greater.

I will therefore continue to volunteer and reap the rewards bestowed on me as a result!

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