All over the world, millions of people are working hard and giving their time for others – for free! Why? Well, they’re probably passionate about helping others, and they probably want to make a meaningful contribution to their community. But really, beneath these virtuous and benevolent motives, is a very simple equation: VOLUNTEERING = HAPPINESS.
|Micha, from Austria – another happy HOOP volunteer!|
There are tonnes of academic studies, including one from the brainy people at the London School of Economics, showing that people who volunteer are happier than people who don’t. And it’s got nothing to do with your personal background or how wealthy you are… simply, whoever you are, volunteering has the incredible power of making you happy!
What the research whizzes can’t work out though, is a scientific reason why volunteering should make you happy. So to help them out a bit, I asked some of HOOP’s friends from around the world why volunteering puts a smile on their face.
Julianne Ezra, from England (but an Arequipa resident of two years), thinks enjoying yourself is essential for volunteering. “Earning money is out of the equation so the focus is on enjoying the experience which immediately makes you a better volunteer – you’re not just sharing skills, you’re sharing happiness. And that’s got to be the best thing about it, knowing you have positively affected someone else.”
|Chris Kondas with Kenzie and the kids at Cancha time|
Chris Kondas, from Ohio in the USA, is a bit of a volunteering veteran (which you can read about here), and volunteering makes him feel so good he feels bad! “Sometimes I feel guilty because I feel so good after doing volunteer work or something for someone who wasn’t expecting it. What you take from the deed is far greater than what you leave.” Well, that’s definitely going to vex the people at the London School of Economics when they read this. But I’ll be sure to give them Chris’ details so they can do some research on him.
One of our local HOOPsters, Christian Collazons, thinks the happiness that comes from volunteering is simply a good feeling from helping someone else. “I really like HOOP’s slogan, ‘Breaking the cycle of poverty through education’. That’s the only way we can help people to live better lives.”
But there are big personal rewards to volunteering too, says Bianca Berti from Austria: “Helping kids learn English might give them a way out of poverty and it also enriches my own personality through working with the children and seeing their progress and also their struggles.” Our Program Director, Alison, agrees: “You give back and you’re rewarded when you see the difference you’re making with the kids, and how appreciative the families are that teachers come from all over the world to teach in their community. It’s very fulfilling!”
Carol Mitchell from England, who has years of volunteering experience (including setting up an NGO in Uganda!), says: “Volunteering tends to give you back a hundred times what you offer. It develops you, stretches you, relieves you and allows you to really experience things from other perspectives rather than just trying to imagine what life might be like for other people. And then you can translate your newfound experience into other areas of your life making them richer too… But you will never be a know-it-all no matter how long you volunteer, so it keeps teaching you new things all the time.”
If you’ve ever volunteered, you’ll know the happy feeling you get from being part of a valuable and meaningful experience. You’ll also know that you don’t need a PhD in psychology to understand the link between volunteering and happiness. It’s just a simple fact of life. So be happy.