Volunteers have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, lower rates of depression, and less incidence of heart disease than those who do not volunteer, all of which, according to Volunteer Centres Ireland, makes registering for Ireland’s National Day of Volunteering a healthy choice this autumn.
Taking place countrywide on Friday October 1st, and co-ordinated by Volunteer Centres Ireland (VCI) - the National Day of Volunteering aims to encourage people to give some time to helping with charitable, social and community initiative. Volunteers can register online, or contact any of VCI’s 22 Volunteer Centres across Ireland, where their skills and availability can be matched to suitable local projects. The day is being sponsored by Pfizer and Irish Rail.
International research consistently illustrates the physical and psychological benefits of volunteering, with a study published in February this year in the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology concluding that volunteer work has numerous positive benefits such as “increasing psychological detachment from paid work, and fulfilling important psychological needs, including the need to connect with others, autonomy, and competence.”
In the US, a review of 30 longitudinal studies of the relationship between health and volunteering showed that volunteers devoting a “considerable” amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours a year) are most likely to have positive health outcomes, which include better mental health, physical fitness, and heart condition.
The studies covered in the US report ‘The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research’ were controlled for other factors, such as the individual’s lifestyle and inherent health status.
Physically Healthier and Lower Stress
VolunteerMatch, a US counterpart of Volunteer Centres Ireland, also released a study in April this year showing that volunteering not only enhances physical and mental health, but also strengthens relationships between employers and employees.
Key findings were that 68% said volunteering made them feel physically healthier, and 29% of volunteers suffering from a chronic condition said volunteering helped them manage their illness. 73% of volunteers reported lower stress levels, and over 75% volunteering through work said they felt better about their employer as a result.
A TimeBank survey of 700 volunteers in the UK also revealed this year that a fifth of volunteers reported an increase in general health, and just under a third reported more self-confidence and a greater sense of well-being.
A Small, Random Act of Volunteering
The National Day of Volunteering takes place on Friday 1st October across Ireland, and, this year, volunteers are asked to register for a project already happening, to nominate their own project, to commit a small ’random act of volunteering’, or simply take the opportunity to thank a volunteer, either personally, or by noting their contribution on www.volunteer.ie.
“Even if a person can just do just one small thing on the day, such as walk an elderly neighbour’s dog, or register to give blood, it does make a difference. And, as all the research indicates, helping in this way is just as beneficial for the volunteer, as it is for the recipient”, Dr. Yvonne McKenna, CEO of Volunteer Centres Ireland says.
According to VCI, ‘Youth/ Children’, ’Education and Literacy’, and ’Older People’ are the three most popular categories of volunteer opportunities, although 2010 has seen volunteer office work become increasingly popular too, as more people seek professional work experience.
Volunteer Centres Ireland estimates that volunteers registered with its centres alone, contribute around €5.5 million, annually, were their time to be paid at minimum wage. The contribution of numerous volunteer groups, like Tidy Towns, sports clubs and school associations, puts the value of Ireland’s volunteer resource at tens of millions, according to CEO, Dr. Yvonne McKenna.
“In tough economic times, people can still contribute, without having to put their hands in their pockets. VCI currently has over 50,000 individuals registered as volunteers, and about 4,000+ organisations or projects seeking help, so there is still huge demand for volunteers.
The point of the National Day of Volunteering is to draw attention to the fantastic contribution volunteers make to Irish society and to encourage those that haven’t yet tried it to give it a go” Dr McKenna says.
Statistics produced by the European Parliament indicate that the contribution of volunteers in member countries generally represents 5% of GDP, and produces a return of between five and eight times, for every euro invested in volunteering.
The National Day of Volunteering is sponsored by Pfizer and Irish Rail, and the organisers are actively encouraging companies and organisations to get involved on the day too.
Pfizer is working closely with Volunteers Centre Ireland to create once-off volunteering opportunities that benefit the community and will show that volunteering, even for a few short hours, can make a difference and be a lot of fun. Every Pfizer site in Ireland will participate on the day, giving their time and expertise to many worthwhile projects. Colleagues will donate blood, raise funds for the Make A Wish Foundation, complete a garden transformation project, participate in an advocacy campaign to mark the UN International Day of Older Persons and complete a Community Centre make over to name but a few projects.
However, volunteering is not new to Pfizer. The Askeaton Touring Club is one of the most established volunteering initiatives. This year the club celebrates 21 years and has raised over €750,000, positively impacting the lives of many people along the way.~ To mark this impressive contribution the Mayor of Limerick will host a celebration event for the group to mark the presentation of the 21st cheque to Brothers of Charity on 01 Oct 2010.
Iarnród Éireann Corporate Communications Manager Barry Kenny said ~ “Iarnród Éireann is delighted to once again be supporting the National Day of Volunteering, and we will be encouraging our customers and staff on our trains and in our stations to join in and get the most from volunteering.~ Across the communities on our network and beyond, volunteering can make such a difference – we hope the idea of a “random act of volunteering” generates some great ideas, and leads to long-term initiatives for the benefit of communities nationwide.”
The organisers, Volunteer Centres Ireland (VCI ), is the national Volunteer Centre and a representative body, support organisation and membership organisation for all 22 local Volunteer Centres in Ireland and receives support from the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs.
Further information on the National Day of Volunteering is available at www.volunteer.ie or by ringing 01 7994519 or contacting any local Volunteer Centre (see local directories)
Published: 16th September 2010.