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Volunteerism in Relation to Psychology

I have been anticipating the chance for me to do the volunteer work, as my friends who have already taken or finished their volunteer assignments were telling different things about their experiences. One thing that is worth noting is that they were all happy about their volunteer work. Volunteerism is an act of helping people for educational, charitable or social purposes in one’s community. When we say volunteer, it means no regard for compensation. The University of Minnesota’s web site (2006) says that volunteerism is “guided by a functional approach to personality, motivation, and social behavior. ”

Most of the universities across the United States offer psychology courses which require volunteer work as partial fulfillment of the course. There have also been programs aiming to enhance the kind of volunteer work of profit or nonprofit organizations. For instance, the UPS Foundation helps in improving the quality and quantity of volunteerism. Now we ask ourselves, why do people give much importance to volunteerism? We know that when there are fires or other disasters, volunteers are on the front lines. When a community needs people to assist with a particular program for the elderly or for the children, there are always volunteers.

They are everywhere. There are many ways on how to be a volunteer. An advantage of being a volunteer is that you get a firsthand experience of working in the human services area. The University of Montana (n. d. ) web site says that through volunteerism, a person considering a career in psychology will know if that is the area that interests him. A volunteer can have personal growth based on his experiences that he can also share with others. A volunteer must bear in mind that volunteerism will bring him personal development and lessons that he can only learn from such work.

Let me tell you about Oasis Lifestyle where I volunteered. It is an assisted living community where my task consisted of assisting the elderly in their bingo games. It was a fairly easy thing to do, helping the elders to have a good time. At the end of the day, it brought a feeling of contentment knowing that I have made others happy with my being a volunteer. Moreover, it was pure joy to know that those at Oasis Lifestyles realize that there are still people out there who care for them and their happiness, who see about their needs without waiting for something in return.

Oasis Lifestyles has 123 units, which accommodates one or two residents in each unit. Its facilities include an ice cream parlor, gorgeous dining rooms, an aqua-aerobics and therapy pool, covered walkways, gardens and greenhouses. There is also a park for the residents. All in all, Oasis Lifestyle was created just for the enjoyment of both the residents and their families. Their services are Special Care (for Alzheimer’s and dementia) and Personal Care, just to name a few. The entire 96, 500 square foot home was designed to make the residents happy and contented.

One thing I learned from this experience is that even though this volunteer work was required for my class, there’s nothing more fulfilling than a feeling of being needed. It made me realize the importance of helping the helpless, of contributing to their happiness. Fletcher (2007) says that volunteerism can be very beneficial if its purpose is to reinforce the community and its citizens’ participation. Through the act of volunteering, people can bring social change to the society as a whole.

I have read from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2003) the benefits that the society can gain from volunteerism. First and foremost, people create groupings that can foster social norms and instill a sense of civic responsibility and belonging. When voluntary organizations come together in meeting goals, it helps them to better understand and tolerate diversity. Furthermore, through volunteer work, people can better understand the factors which shaped our governments and societies. This would lead to accountability, transparency and improved governance.

Volunteerism is a challenging work. It is a vehicle for democracy and sustainable communities (Fletcher, 2007) through the different strengths and skills that volunteers bring (UNDP, 2003). Motivation to help others is what usually drives volunteers. The value of unselfishness adds importance to what the volunteer does, and he has the desire to closely work with the community he serves. These factors enables a volunteer to feel and own a sense of freedom that will further help him to face perceived inequalities and non-democratic power structures (UNDP, 2003).

In my own volunteer work, I believe that through what I and other volunteers do, we can reduce dependency and instead promote empowerment. My work does not consist of merely giving a bingo card to a group of elders. I help them or one of them to get the card. I make them feel that although they are old, they are not completely useless. I would like to stress that volunteers must not be thought of in terms of their cost. As I have mentioned earlier, volunteers help others while disregarding compensation. Thinking that volunteerism equals money diminishes the value of the volunteer endeavor.

Volunteer work must be a selfless act. We help others because we have the capacity to help them, and thus help them to help themselves. My volunteer experience at Oasis Lifestyles was completely different as I realize things about myself and about those I have come in contact with. It didn’t matter if I was young or old or white or black and those I helped were the opposite of me. Another thing I realized through the volunteer work is that we are all equal, and there is still hope for volunteerism in the hearts of people in our country.

References

Department of Psychology. (n. d. ).Volunteer opportunities. Retrieved on November 2, 2007 from the University of Montana web site: http://psychweb. psy. umt. edu/www/undergrad_volunteer. asp Fletcher, Adam. (2007). Purpose, empowerment and the experience of volunteerism in community. Retrieved on November 2, 2007 from The Freechild Project web site: http://www. freechild. org/volunteerism2. htm United Nations Development Programme. (2003). Volunteerism and development. Evaluation Office, New York. University of Minnesota. (2006). Volunteerism project. Retrieved on November 2, 2007 from http://volunteerism. psych. umn. edu/default. htm

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