Volunteering improves physical and mental health, enhances skills and knowledge, builds friendships and networks as well as delivering feelings of personal satisfaction through contributing, a new survey has found.
It also delivers measurable benefits to those being supported; including help in finding work and acquiring skills as well intangible and benefits such as friendship and building connections within communities, the survey found.
To mark National Volunteer Week 2021, 17-23 May, the survey was commissioned by migrant and refugee settlement agency, AMES Australia. It canvased the attitudes of 120 of the organisation’s volunteers working mostly with newly arrived refugees and migrants.
It found that overwhelmingly, volunteers believed they, themselves, benefitted directly through helping others.
Asked whether volunteering improved their physical and mental health, 78% said ‘yes’ and just 3% saw no health benefit.
More than 90% of survey respondents said volunteering increased their sense of self-worth and 93% said it had improved their knowledge of the world and other cultures; 88% said they had gained skills and knowledge from volunteering.
All of the volunteers surveyed said they felt they had made a positive contribution in the lives of others through their work and 84% said they felt they had contributed to social cohesion in Australia.
Almost 66% of respondents said they had made friendships and developed networks because of volunteering and 42% said it had been a benefit to their own careers.
A total of 94% said they would recommend volunteering to others and almost 96% said they found it a rewarding experience.
An overwhelming 96% of volunteers said their work delivered either ‘significant’ or ‘some’ benefits to those being supported and just 4% were ‘not sure’.
Among the top benefits to those being supported listed were ‘language acquisition support’ (91%), ‘friendship’ (96%), ‘building connections with local communities’ (68%), ‘practical support in navigating life in Australia’ (53%), ‘understanding how to access services’ (56%) and ‘help in finding employment’ (38%).
The volunteers were asked what the best thing about volunteering was. The most common responses were: “Giving back to the community”; “Making a difference in people’s lives”, and; “Meeting a range of people and being able to give support and encouragement to them”.
Volunteer Nenia Tavrou has been volunteering with AMES Australia for 14 years.
Ms Tavrou said being a volunteer had given her as much as she had put in.
“I have learned so much about diverse communities over the years and I have met so many lovely and interesting people,” she said.
“I love helping people settle and integrate into Australia. It’s all about helping learn about how things work in Australia; everything from … the public transport system to shopping, doctor’s appointments and all of things that are specific to Australia that people may have not seen before.
“Volunteering has given me so much and I would recommend it to anyone,” Ms Tavrou said.