Educator and Avid Volunteer Mychael Willon Looks at 3 Remarkable Benefits of Volunteering
For many people, volunteering is a permanent item on their to-do list. They sincerely plan on reaching out and making a difference down the road when they have more time, or when they are ready for an additional commitment. However, they never really transform that pledge into reality. According to educator and avid volunteer Mychael Willon, this chronic yet common pattern is not just unfortunate — it is a huge missed opportunity.
“When people start volunteering, the rewards are so immense and immediate, that their biggest regret is that they didn’t start sooner,” commented Mychael Willon, who currently serves as the President of the Warhill PTSA, and the Williamsburg/James City County PTA Council, respectively, and is also the District Director of the Peninsula District PTA. “There is nothing like knowing that your labors and efforts are having a positive impact on the lives of those in need. It is beyond fulfilling.”
According to Mychael Willon and millions of others who have discovered that giving back is the gift that keeps on giving — both to others and to oneself — here are three remarkable benefits of volunteering:
1) Volunteering Connects People to Others and their Community
Despite the proliferation of smartphones and other technologies that enable communication, many people feel isolated and alienated. Volunteering bridges this divide, and brings like-minded people together in a spirit of support and cooperation.
“The enriching friendships that volunteers build can last a lifetime,” commented Mychael Willon. “And while it is ideal if people can connect face-to-face, this profound re-connection is also experienced by those who, by necessity or preference, volunteer remotely over the phone or web. Volunteers share a special bond that is unlike any other kind of relationship.”
2) Volunteering is Good for Physical and Mental Health
A study by researchers at Carnegie Melon University published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that people over the age of 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) than non-volunteers. Separate research has also found that volunteering is linked to lower rates of depression, and that in general volunteers have better physical health than non-volunteers. In fact, there is also encouraging evidence that volunteering can increase lifespan.
Volunteers who are inspired by authentically altruistic motives and who sincerely want to help others, eventually, and inevitably see, incredible, and sometimes profound positive changes in how they feel and think, and this, in turn, influences their overall sense of wellness.
3) Volunteering is a Highly Effective Way to Network and Learn New Skills
Volunteers whose primary goal is to build their professional network and advance their careers are likely to be disappointed; not because these benefits aren’t readily available, but because the chief aim of volunteering should be to truly help others — not to help oneself climb the ladder. Yet with that being said, volunteers whose hearts and minds are in the right place are assured of meeting new people, learning new skills, and discovering new opportunities that can support their career aspirations.
“Volunteers make personal connections that can turn into professional possibilities,” claims Mychael Willon. “At the same time, today’s employers — especially progressive organizations that are shaping their industries and leading their marketplace, are very interested in recruiting and retaining volunteers, because they tend to make exceptional leaders who work well with others, and know how to be part of a cohesive team that is inspired and driven by a shared purpose.”