The Link Between Volunteering and Wellness
Submitted by Matchsticks of IMH
Why is volunteering important?
Volunteering involves provision of time and labour to an activity which benefits others, without financial gain. There is a huge range of volunteering opportunities - befriending, food packing, meals delivering and even tutoring. If you are or have been a student of the Singapore education system, you would likely have had a hand in one of those volunteering opportunities mentioned during your schooling years.
While diverse in opportunities, volunteering as a whole aims to contribute positively to the lives of those being served. We often hear of individuals from less privileged backgrounds who benefit from food programmes and educational programmes which they may not otherwise be able to afford. We also come across news about patients within medical institutions who feel less lonely with the companionship and activities planned by volunteers.
Volunteering evidently helps to fill up structural gaps within our social service/healthcare system, thus bringing benefits to those being served. However, did you know that YOU can also benefit from contributing your time and effort to serve others?
A longitudinal study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies in 2020 found that in the UK, individuals who volunteered were more likely to experience satisfaction in their lives, and had higher self-ratings of their health, compared to those who did not. A research by Binder and Freytag (2013) found that even those who started off volunteering with lower well-being may see a boost in their well-being from volunteering often!
Apart from personal well-being, volunteering also increases social capital - connections and social ties. Having social ties is important as it ensures we have people to turn to when we require assistance. Getting to know people from different walks of life can even increase your perspectives and allow you to gain more knowledge about the world.
How do I start?
There are many Social Service Agencies, Volunteer Welfare Organisations and even hospitals that offer different volunteering opportunities. Opportunities range between ad-hoc to regular volunteering. You can even choose between indirect volunteering such as designing/photography to direct volunteering such as befriending and medical escorting.
If you’re based in Singapore, giving.sg is a platform that shares multiple volunteering opportunities within a single platform.
What is Matchsticks of IMH and how can I help?
Matchsticks of IMH is a youth volunteering group based in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Every Saturday, we volunteer to serve the residents in the long stay psychiatric wards. Our activities include befriending, art and craft, sports and board games. Prior to the pandemic, we organised outings to various places of interests, and parties during festive seasons. We also conducted outreach to schools to increase mental health awareness and promote youth volunteerism.
Currently, we are conducting our sessions online due to the pandemic. We plan and facilitate virtual games and workshops for the residents over Zoom. We hope to continue bringing joy to the residents and reduce the feelings of social isolation they may experience due to the pandemic. We believe that volunteering can make a difference to the lives of volunteers and residents despite the physical barriers.
If you’re keen to contribute to the mental health community and volunteer regularly, you can sign up to join us through giving.sg as well! Our page can be found here: https://www.giving.sg/community/matchsticks-of-imh
You can read more about our volunteer stories here: https://tinyurl.com/burningbrightertogether
All the best in your volunteering journey!