Educator and Avid Volunteer Mychael Willon Looks How Volunteering Builds Stronger Communities
Just as exceptional teams are not merely a collection of disparate people, thriving communities are not comprised of individuals and families who merely share the same zip code, or simply drive on the same streets each day. Rather, these special spaces are often characterized by a deep, enduring, and most importantly shared commitment to volunteerism.
According to educator and avid volunteer Mychael Willon, here are three reasons why volunteering builds stronger communities:
Volunteering Promotes Cohesion and Understanding
Contrary to what some people believe, human beings are not neurologically wired to remain distant. On the contrary, scientific research has shown that people are driven to connect with others, and find common ground. Volunteering is not just a viable way to achieve this primal and essential objective, but it is often the best way.
“These days, we are so focused on what sets us apart — our politics, our preferences, our personalities, our paradigms, and the list goes on — that we lose sight of the fact that we are strikingly similar to others in the most fundamental of ways, including the fact that we all want to belong and feel safe,” states Mychael Willon, who currently serves as the President of the Warhill PTSA and is also the District Director of the Peninsula District PTA. “Volunteering brings people together, and promotes cohesion, understanding and growth. Indeed, what people get out of volunteering is often far more important than what they give.”
Volunteering Enhances Community Pride
Volunteering gives individuals, families and groups an opportunity to establish and foster a sense of community pride. Research published in the Institute for Volunteering Research has shown that where volunteering activity takes places — and not just what volunteering takes place — is a critical component that generates engagement, and drives results and rewards.
“For some people the notion of community pride may seem hopelessly outdated,” commented Mychael Willon. “But community pride is more important now than it was in the past, because of the profound disconnect that people feel from their neighbors. Volunteering re-ignites a sense of community spirit like nothing else. When people become emotionally, psychologically, and in some cases financially invested in the care and wellbeing of their communities, they transform where they live — and who they are.”
Volunteering Makes Communities Smarter and Safer
Volunteer programs that target school-aged children — such as early child education, and interventions that support students with enhanced learning needs and who need individualized attention — not only make communities smarter, but it also makes them safer. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that students who felt more connected to their schools had higher grades and test scores, significantly lower rates of substance use, higher attendance rates, and were far less likely to engage in violence.
A shocking number of young people become anti-social because they don’t feel any real sense of connection to the people around them or where they live. Volunteering helps close the gap, and help young people know and feel that they are not alone. At the same time, it gives volunteers an opportunity to give back to their communities, which creates a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone.