Another thing we’ve learned this year: “volunteering” no longer implies side-by-side interaction with others. Virtual and “no contact” volunteering opportunities are plentiful and should be added to the list of good health practices, along with frequent handwashing, keeping a distance, and wearing a mask.
Volunteering is good for our health? Yes. From decreasing the risk of depression, reducing stress and helping us live longer, the relationship between volunteering and good health is widely known.
Volunteers are needed now more than ever, as millions of unemployed and low-income people struggle to make ends meet and as thousands more are diagnosed daily with the coronavirus. The good news is that volunteers of all ages continue to show up, help out, and address community needs.
Here are just 3 ways to volunteer that will promote good health across your community:
Serve seniors.The social isolation caused by the pandemic puts seniors especially at an increased risk for adverse physical and mental health implications. In Madrid, United Way Spain created a telephone support service staffed by trained volunteers for homebound elderly people to combat loneliness. In St. Cloud, United Way of Central Minnesota engaged volunteers in assembling kits to be distributed to seniors through the Meals on Wheels program. Kits included a puzzle or deck of cards, COVID-19 resources, greeting cards to send to family or friends, notes of encouragement, and snacks. Your local United Way can connect you to similar projects in your community.
Shore up mental health services.Get trained to staff a free 24/7 national crisis intervention and counseling service conducted exclusively through SMS text. Volunteers are screened and complete self-paced training, afterwards staffing shifts on a regular basis. Or sign up to volunteer with 211, a community referral service for everything from health needs to financial assistance and other social supports.
Save lives by volunteering for vaccine and other health research.To learn about future COVID-19 study opportunities offered through the National Institutes of Health, subscribe to a mailing list or check out clinical trials in your area.
And if these ideas aren’t enough to get you going, consider this: volunteering makes us happier. A recent report published by the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied and rated their overall health as better compared to people who didn’t volunteer. People who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.
As COVID-19 continues to affect every country and many communities across the globe, United Way calls on willing volunteers to contribute where they can. Don’t wait. Search our portal today to find where you can volunteer to protect the health of others – and your own. Mei Coob Senior Director, Volunteer Engagement. United Way
Senior Director, Volunteer Engagement. United Way
Illustration: Ignacio Hildebrant