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The Benefits of Volunteering

‘The essence of life is to serve others and do good’ - Aristotle

The responsibility to create a better world around us is one of the values that form the Warwick Way. One way that we can fulfil this responsibility is through charity. The generosity of our school community has been apparent over the past few weeks. Last half term’s appeal to raise funds for the Sir Stanley Matthews Foundation raised nearly £9,000. Thank you to all those who contributed; by paying to wear their own clothes, purchasing doughnuts or bidding for items in the successful auction.

Our current appeal focuses on providing support for the victims of the humanitarian crises precipitated by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Today saw another non-uniform day and pupils were encouraged to make a minimum donation of £2 and purchase a doughnut (Going forward, some consideration of the impact of our charitable work on the healthy eating agenda may prove necessary!) to raise funds for UNICEF. Thank you to all those who supported these initiatives and to the many members of our school community who made donations in support of the Leamington Polish Centre’s appeal. Your generosity was remarkable. Financial generosity is one aspect of charity; equally important is generosity of time and leveraging our talents in support of those less fortunate. Particular praise is therefore due to Lower Sixth pupil Joshua who masterminded the recent auction. In Wednesday’s whole school assembly Head of School, Ed appealed to the school to wear their own clothes, purchase doughnuts and most importantly consider how they could fulfil their responsibility by giving generously of their time and talents. Seva, the Chair of the pupil charity Committee and Mr Tapper-Gray are keen to hear ideas form any member of the pupil body who want to make a difference.

Another way we can make a difference and fulfil this responsibility is by volunteering. The benefits of volunteering to the community, organisation or individual receiving help are obvious. The benefits to the receiver and the wider community are usually part of the reason why people volunteer in the first place, but volunteering is enlightened self-interest and also has enormous benefits for the volunteer. 

Volunteering is a way to broaden your social circle, meet new people and connect with those from different backgrounds and walks of life.  Something that can only serve to open our eyes, increase our understanding of other perspectives and increase our empathy.

Doing good for others and the community gives a sense of accomplishment, pride and identity, helping to boost self-esteem.  A study of seven hundred 11-14-year olds conducted by the University of Missouri and Brigham House University found that altruistic behaviour increased feelings of self-worth, and that adolescents who assisted strangers reported higher self-esteem one year later. These results were corroborated by a National Youth Agency Report in which young people repeatedly stressed that volunteering had increased their self-confidence, self-esteem and self-belief.  Over the past week I have spoken to two young men who have highlighted the benefits of their involvement in volunteering. The first has been volunteering to hear pupils read at Westgate Primary School as part of our Friday Afternoon Activities programme. It was magical to see his face light up when I passed on praise for the positive impact he’d had on one young boy who’d previously refused to read, and even now will read only to him. The second was talking about their involvement in volunteering and the benefit to their confidence. A shy and reserved young man who joined the school at the start of the school year, they simply couldn’t have imagined being able to interact with strangers this way a year ago.

Volunteering has distinct mental health benefits. It can help to combat stress, anxiety and depression. A study by the London School of Economics found that the more people volunteered the happier they were, and that compared with people who never volunteered the chances of being ‘very happy’ rose by 7% among those who volunteered monthly and 12% for those who volunteer every two to four weeks.  Volunteering often involves helping those in need and the deeper sense of perspective developed through focusing on others can distract us from negative thoughts and help us forget our own problems.

In an increasingly competitive job market, volunteering experience can be incredibly useful, particularly in the most competitive career paths like medicine. It can provide relevant experience and an opportunity to start developing the knowledge and skills required. It also demonstrates a willingness to take the initiative and a commitment to your chosen path that will help you to stand out from the crowd.

The benefits of being generous with our time and talent and not simply our treasure, are huge both for us and those we help. That is why I encourage every Warwickian to think about what they can do to fulfil their responsibility to make the world a better place through charity, both now in support of Ukraine and in the longer term through volunteering. Take advantage of the opportunities available in school through either the Friday afternoon activities programme or by getting involved in the charity appeals or committee. The world has a lot to gain, and so do they.