Why Giving back to your community is good for you.

Its official. New Zealanders are generous by nature. The 2018 World Giving Index, a study commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation and conducted by Gallup ranks countries on their generosity. The survey asked participants if they had, in the last month:

  1. Helped a stranger, or someone they didn’t know who needed help?

  2. Donated money to a charity?

  3. Volunteered your time to an organisation?

New Zealand weighed in at an impressive Number 3 out of 140 countries in the study, with the first and second spots being taken by Indonesia at number one and Australia at number two. While we are not always in a position to give financially, volunteers giving up their time keep our communities alive. 1.2 million New Zealanders volunteer every year, and without those volunteers, many events and community services that we need so desperately would simply disappear.

Despite one quarter of the country’s population putting their hands up to help out, organisations and events are still sorely lacking in volunteers. In our own area, we have lost events that are incredibly beneficial for the wellbeing of the community simply because the same people are forced to put their hand up every time, and with no new volunteers on the horizon, they become exhausted and eventually give up. This is known as ‘Volunteer Burnout’, and can be seen not just in events, but in community groups and grass roots organisations as well. The best way to avoid this? We need more people willing to give their most precious commodity: time. There is no doubt we are busier than ever, and 60% of people cite a lack of time as a reason not to volunteer. But what if it’s not a lack of time but aperceivedlack of time? If we look at those most active in our community : they are often the people we would deem ‘busy’. It’s that old cliché ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person’. People make time for what they deem is important. There are so many benefits to giving back to your community, what would happen if we made it more of a priority, even in a small way? Stepping up gives us a tangible way to make a real difference in the world, and change things for the better. And if you believe that what you can offer is too insignificant to be worthwhile, think again. As Betty Reese says “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” Every contribution, no matter how small, is crucial to strengthening our community. In short, we need you.

What does that help look like? It could be volunteering at community events such as A&P shows, putting your hand up when your local school needs help, or joining a community board. It could be volunteering at your local library, or coaching a kids sports team. Maybe you could join a charity such as the Red Cross, or help with local food banks. There are shorter term commitments as well: day beach clean-ups and native tree planting. Keep an eye on your local newspaper and community social media, and you won’t have to look hard for opportunities to help that benefit our community. Volunteering has personal benefits too: Studies have shown that volunteering strengthens our social networks, raises self-esteem, improves our skill set and even reduces our risk of Alzheimer’s while increasing longevity.

What if we looked at those questions from the World Giving Index, and turned them into challenges:

  1. Help a stranger, or someone you don’t know, who needs help

  2. Donate money to a charity

  3. Volunteer your time to an organisation

While we can’t do everythingwe can all do something. What can offer your community?

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© 2016 Claire Inkson. All photographs copyright Claire Inkson

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