In 2017, a whopping 77.4 million Americans1 performed community service at their local schools, food banks, hospitals, churches, community centers, homeless shelters, and more. Even more inspiring is the fact that participation in volunteer programs increased by 22% compared to what we saw in 20152.
Here at Republic Wireless, we encourage our team members to gain volunteer experience by participating in a variety of community service projects. Throughout the year, we host what we call “Mojo Challenges,” which are designed to foster creativity, teamwork, and a little bit of fun. Oftentimes, these challenges include a volunteering component, and we send team members to Habitat for Humanity builds, Thanksgiving meal delivery, Meals on Wheels delivery, and more.
Outside these formal volunteer opportunities, we also encourage our team members to give back to the local community during their personal time – and it shows. In 2017 alone, Republic Wireless team members logged over 1,300 hours of volunteer service! And, Republic team members are 50% more likely than the U.S. population to donate their time through volunteering.
In recognition of National Volunteer Week, April 7-13, we wanted to take a moment to honor those of you who actively participate in community service, as well as explore the myriad benefits our team members enjoy through their service.
It’s Good For Your Health
Of course, the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from giving back to your local community is the most obvious benefit you gain through volunteering. And, those warm and fuzzies can be a real benefit – research shows that volunteering can actually improve your health3. Having a sense of purpose positively contributes to one’s psychological wellbeing, which is also associated with better physical health. And, not surprisingly, volunteering positively impacts your sense of purpose – you know you are doing good in the world, you are connecting with others who share your values, and you have made social commitments that you are dedicated to following through on.
“It’s good to be part of a larger whole and make a difference. But it also ends up being fun. It’s tremendously rewarding, a wonderful growth opportunity, and a great way to make friends.”
Willy has observed that his volunteer work improves his stress level. It’s easy these days to stress about the state of the world, but, as Willy puts it, “When I’m stressed out about inequality in the world, I know that I’m doing my part to improve it.” Marcel agrees, and enjoys the positive psychological benefits of volunteering. Through his work with his local church and hurricane relief efforts, he has observed, “It’s good to be part of a larger whole and make a difference. But it also ends up being fun. It’s tremendously rewarding, a wonderful growth opportunity, and a great way to make friends.”
It Inspires You
Mentorship is a wonderful way to stay inspired. There’s something magical about practically seeing the gears turn in someone’s head, and then the lightbulb light up with recognition and pride.
“It’s been really fun to watch his progression over time.”
Because Willy has been working with the same student for almost three years, he is able to enjoy the benefit of seeing his improvement over time. He says, “It’s been really fun to watch his progression over time. When I see him using techniques that I taught him, it’s really cool.”
Emily has had a similar experience through her ESL tutoring. Again, being paired with the same student for a year and a half has enabled her to witness the fruits of her labor, and share in her student’s successes. When she first started working with her student, she was at a first grade reading level in English, her second language, and they were meeting three nights a week, an hour and a half each night. Now they meet twice a week, still for an hour and a half, and her student is able to effectively converse in restaurants, tell her about her day, and connect with her on a deeper level.
“It’s just fun to teach stuff to people. If you have a motivated student who wants to learn and you can teach them something, that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Evan agrees – teaching Aikido at NC State gives him the opportunity to work with motivated students who want to learn from him, and there’s nothing more inspiring than that. “It’s just fun to teach stuff to people,” he says about his experience. “If you have a motivated student who wants to learn and you can teach them something, that’s the best feeling in the world.”
It Helps Put Things in Perspective
Between the inevitable slog of work, family, and home life, it’s really easy for our perspectives to get a little out of whack. Engaging in volunteer work helps us recognize and appreciate our blessings, and give back to the community where we can.
“It’s one of the most effective ways to realize how lucky you’ve got it.”
Marcel has reflected on his work with his church to help victims of local hurricanes, “When you get out there and serve, it’s one of the most effective ways to realize how lucky you’ve got it. It really opens up your eyes and it gives you a very significant pause to stop taking so many things for granted.”
You Can Pursue Passion Projects
Unsurprisingly, as a systems architect, Dean spends the overwhelming majority of the day in the technical world. But, through his volunteer work, he’s able to pursue his passions – and he’s amazingly well-rounded. Coaching youth soccer and singing solo at his church as a worship leader, he enjoys being able to step out of his day-to-day technical role and spend time doing something more creative. “I love the creation process,” he says about singing. “It doesn’t matter if you are singing music someone else wrote – you interpret it the way you feel. So, you are creating an experience for the people who are listening to it.” Fun fact: Dean previously sang with the Philadelphia Opera Company – would you believe that our systems architect is a trained first tenor!?
“I love the creation process. It doesn’t matter if you are singing music someone else wrote – you interpret it the way you feel. So, you are creating an experience for the people who are listening to it.”
Volunteering for her alma mater (high school) robotics team is a wonderful way for Margaret to also pursue her passion. She’s always been interested in robotics, and holds a minor in robotics from Carnegie Mellon. However, she did not want to pursue robotics as a career due to how finicky hardware can be (we totally understand!). Serving as a coach for the robotics team allows her to pass along her extensive knowledge and inspire other young women to pursue careers in STEM.
Evan is also able to pursue his passion through his volunteer work with NC State. As an Aikido instructor, he’s able to inspire students and teach them new skills without giving up his day job. He also embraces the challenge of teaching his craft to beginner students, saying, “You can think that you know something, but if you can’t teach someone else, you don’t really know it.” Teaching Aikido has made Evan a better Aikido practitioner himself, and gives him more opportunity to practice this art form and master his skills.
You Can Apply Your Work Experiences
There are also ways you can leverage volunteer work to improve your performance at work, or at least flex your skills while benefiting others. Although volunteering gives Dean a chance to explore creative pursuits, it also gives him an opportunity to apply his professional skills in a new way. Dean leads up our hardware development, and was instrumental in developing Relay by Republic Wireless. It is through this work that he’s gained experience in audio testing, which inspired him to implement a new sound system in his local church!
Willy uses his career in data analytics to inspire his mentee, a 4th grader struggling in math. Willy is able to share his experiences with the student, providing real-world examples of how his studies can benefit him and lead to a successful career. One of the challenges many students have in math is in memorization – as an example, multiplication tables are almost all memorization. So, if that’s not a strength, it’s easy to get discouraged. But, Willy encourages his student by sharing with him, “I was not good at memorizing as a kid” – and it’s through this sharing that Willy is able to encourage his student that he can be successful in school – even in math.
You Can Learn a Thing or Two
Establishing new friendships and relationships is a core benefit to volunteer work. Through these relationships, you can also learn a lot. Emily, working with a student from Brazil, has had the opportunity to learn about the Brazilian culture, and is able to use these conversations as a teaching tool. “We talk a lot about current events, and I ask a lot about the culture of her home country. So, I have her compare and contrast things in her home country with things here in the U.S. It’s great for me because I get to learn about different parts of the world, and it also gives her an opportunity to practice her conversational skills.”
“It’s great for me because I get to learn about different parts of the world.”
Mentoring can also give you a new appreciation for another career – in Willy’s case, it’s given him an appreciation for education and the dedication teachers show for their students. He says, “It’s given me an understanding of the patience it takes to teach. I’ve learned methods of positive reinforcement for getting someone to pay attention and reinforcing good habits. I definitely have an appreciation for teachers and what they experience every day.”
We know it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how large the need seems. I’m only one person, you may think, what can I do to make an impact?
“Every journey starts with a single step. So, step up.”
Well, the answer is, a lot – even by doing a little. As Dean says, “Every journey starts with a single step. So, step up. Picking up one piece of trash may not solve the pollution problem, but it’s a start. Anything you can do to help, helps.”
In your local community, there are likely hundreds of volunteer opportunities you can get involved with. These opportunities can offer both short term and long term ways for you to give back and log some community service hours.
In honor of National Volunteer week, a big THANK YOU to those of you who volunteer. And, if you don’t yet, that’s ok! There are plenty of opportunities for you to explore. What are some ways you give back to your local community?