Volunteering : An Art Of Giving Back to the Society


“Service to Mankind is service to God” is the proverb highly prevalent all over the world.

“One should perform karma for the benefit of humanity.” (Rig Veda)

“Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Bible – (Mathew 25: 45)

A friend was admitted in the Intensive Cardiac unit of a hospital in Toronto and I had gone there to give moral support and a few soothing words to the members of the patient’s family. I went there with the pretext that the ICU will be as neat, clean and well looked after like the Military hospitals in India. To my unfathomable surprise what I saw made realize how the Canada government cared for its citizens. In Canada, health-care is all government and there are hardly any private medical services.

The patient had suffered a cardiac arrest and his wife called the Emergency Services, who dispatched an ambulance, a police cruiser and a fire engine. Meanwhile, the person attending the call was giving out instructions to help the wife perform CPR. First to arrive on site was the police cruiser and the police officer immediately took on the task of CPR. The ambulance arrived and the patient was immediately moved to the hospital.

In the ICU, the patient was in a coma and in order to control his metabolic activities, his body temperature was reduced by a degree or two. All modern hi-tech medical instruments were employed to monitor the body parameters – many instruments I had neither seen nor heard of. There was one dedicated nurse manning the station 24 hours, each doing 8 hour shifts. (there were eight other beds in the vicinity and each bed had a dedicated nurse). He briefed me in detail about the patient’s medical condition and the parameters being monitored by him.

While leaving the hospital, I noticed that the person who controlled traffic at the entrance, the old lady on a wheel-chair guiding visitors to various wards, the veteran manning the reception at the ICU – all were volunteers. Then I remembered as to the tough procedure our daughter and son had to undergo to get a volunteer position at the local hospital – medical check-up, police verification and recommendations from two high-school teachers. In Canada 40 hours of community service is mandatory to graduate from high school.  It  is sure to carry you miles when applying for university admissions and also would always look much better on one’s resume.

On my next visit to the hospital, I was greeted by a cheerful man in his late seventies, controlling traffic. I was forced to stop and chat with him as to why he is so cheerful and doing a voluntary service. He said that he had to give back to the society what the society had given him. He further added that he commutes by the subway and bus for an hour each way and does a four hour stint at the gate.These six hours is spend fruitfully by him rather than lying on the bed and cursing the world, the people around him and the God, he added. What a great philosophy?

Many of the volunteers I spoke to had similar explanations for their drive to volunteer. One can see senior citizens volunteering at crossings in front of the schools. They ensure safe passage of children for about an hour in the morning, during lunch-break and when the school session ends. In India such services are available to only political leaders and VIPs, both in civil and the military. The points-men lining up the roads to ensure safe passage of the VIP can effectively be utilized to ensure safety of the children, who are a better investment than the VIP.

These volunteers manning these crossings also had a similar point of view regarding volunteering. One retired police officer manning such a crossing said that the city would have to pay heavily in case the city took up task of manning these crossings and the police force will never be available at the peak hours for ‘real’ policing duties.

During field-trips and outdoor visits by the school children, along with the consent form comes a volunteering sheet, which the parents may fill-up in case they are available to help the teachers in smooth conduct of the event. Visualize one teacher handling 30 children on a field-trip? Generally one found about five to six parents accompanying the kids.

As usual people from our sub-continent are hardly seen volunteering. During one of my hospital visits, I met a senior citizen who had immigrated from India at the coffee shop. I inquired as to why our children and seniors do not engage in such volunteer services. He said that our people also do volunteer services – at religious places of worship where they clean the shoes, sweep the floor, cook food, clean utensils etc. To my surprise and disgust he had his philosophy and justification in place – “there we do service to God directly”.

People volunteer their time to an organization because they want to support their community. In 2010, almost all (93%) volunteers said that making a contribution to the community was a key motivating factor in their decision. Although most volunteers get involved with a charitable or non-profit organization for altruistic reasons, most also believe that they receive substantial benefits themselves. Many stated that their volunteer activities had given them a chance to develop new skills; for example, about two-thirds said their interpersonal skills had improved. Volunteers also thought their volunteer experience had given them better skills in communications (44%), organizing (39%), fundraising (33%) and technical or office work (27%). One-third (34%) also reported that working as a volunteer had increased their knowledge of such subjects as health, women’s or political issues, criminal justice or the environment.

Now think of the vast pool of human resource available in any community in India, who can contribute back to the society. In India, most people retire from their active employment by the age of 60 unlike in Canada where retirement is generally after 70.

Whether you donate money or time, giving back is beneficial–and not just for the recipients. It’s better to give than to receive. Besides feeling good about yourself for doing something for others, giving back is also good for your physical health. Canadian study found 85% of Ontario volunteers rated their health as “good,” compared to 79% of non-volunteers.

Studies have shown a relationship between volunteering and increased self- esteem, with volunteers reporting both greater personal empowerment and better health. Doing for others may stimulate the release of endorphins, which has been linked to improved nervous and immune system functions, too.

Helping others can help take your mind off your own problems and enable you to see the bigger picture. Once you see the difference you can make in another person’s life, your own problems can seem smaller and more manageable.

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing nothing for nobody.” ~ Malcom Bane

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