Volunteering takes time but it pays off as studies show. To help others, or to feel at one with the community, associate positively with a happier life.
Economists Stephen Meier and Alois Stutzer have shown that volunteers are significantly more satisfied with their life than non-volunteers. Also, it has been shown by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital, that people who are members of local organizations or clubs are among the happiest people in America. Hence, at least when it comes to our happiness, no man is an island. There is such power in any individual giving up their time in service to others, it is so inspiring, and it is what is the underpinning of our community.
Volunteers look like you and me, they look like the people you pass everyday in the street.
While I think it’s awesome that people travel the world to help those in need, I’d suggest starting at the local level.
What stops you from volunteering ? Is it fear of not having enough time ? Is it fear of not having the proper competences ?
The key is to find a program or activity that resonates with you or your abilities, and the time you have. The good news is that if there isn’t such a program or activity, you can create one! Take something you’re interested in or may be interested in and try it. What problems do you see in our community ? What do you feel you want to solve ? I can guarantee you there’s someone working on it and they could use your help.
For those of you who are wondering how to volunteer, what to get involved with, we can help you make a difference.
And never forget, every resource we can provide you with today, represents the hard work of another great volunteer.
Read these genuine testimonies of fellow IMFFA members:
As soon as I arrived in Washington D.C., I started to take part in IMFFA activities. One day, Sarah and Sheila asked me to be the Career Networking Committee Chair. I thought : I can’t, I don’t know how to do it, my English is not good enough. They assured me that I had the competences and they would help me. I really thank them for that. I discovered I could do something out of my field (economics) and be good at it. I got deeply involved, thankful for all the skills I gained from this volunteering experience, much more self confident and having met new friends along the road.
Now I know I can connect to people, whatever their place in the hierarchy. I like to network, speak with them and help them out. I can say that volunteering is the first step to success.
I arrived in Washington in 2005. My spouse worked at the IMF, I had quit my job in Germany and I had lots of free time. I came to IMFFA and took part in activities. A few months after my arrival, I decided to offer German lessons to IMFFA members. This was my first experience as a volunteer. Later, in 2006, Xuan Tran asked me to work with her in the Cultural Trip Committee.
I enjoyed to introduce sights to newcomers and exchange experiences. It gave me a unique opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and also to help them not to feel alone. What is important when you work or volunteer is to convey a message. Of course when you volunteer you are not paid but you are rewarded in other ways. You get a feeling of fulfilment and self-enrichment (Erfüllung und Bereicherung).
I decided to volunteer after seeing a Red Cross advertisement on television–it made me want to help others! I also wanted my daughter to understand what it means to help and give back to the community. I enjoyed volunteering for the IMFFA, and helping out with special events, which I found very rewarding, but I also found gratification in the little things I do that have a positive impact on others. I still remember my first Christmas in North America, when I did not have any family around, so I want to be here for others. I would like everyone to feel welcome and know that they are in a safe place. Volunteering is like a drug. I don’t think I will stop. When I have grandchildren I would like to teach them about giving from an early age. Life has been good to me; I like to share.
I discovered volunteering when I moved to Mozambique for my husband’s work. A group of children 6 to 12 years of age were living in the street beside my house and I decided to help in whatever way I could. I strongly believe that in order to be happy you have to give and help and not only be self centered. When I came back to Washington DC I wanted to work part time only so that I would have time for my kids.
IMFFA offers me everything I could wish for: a great team of friends, a very challenging
job with high level contacts, a job in which I can develop my negotiation, strategy, lobbying and management skills and also a multi tasking job with lots of oral and written communication.
I think that the size of the salary does not necessarily reflect the importance of the job and how big of a difference you can make while doing that job. Actually, a salary is usually determined using many more criteria. If your volunteer job fulfils you and you can afford working and making a difference while not earning money, you should go for it! I love to socialize, meet people and share ideas. Not only have I made good friends at IMFFA but I have also been able to challenge my brain and I love it! Volunteering also gives me a lot of freedom– if I want to go home to Europe for the summer with the kids, I can. It’s great!
I think I first volunteered when I was 17 years old. I became a Blood donor in Hong Kong. Later, I offered English conversation classes to Chinese children. When I was 22, I went to Nigeria for one year as an English teacher, which was a tough experience. I have always volunteered throughout my life, even when I was working full-time. My parents taught me it was always better to give than receive, and my sisters volunteers, too. Volunteering is like an addiction for me. It’s so rewarding that I never want to stop! I also love to learn new skills. You want to know where I want to volunteer next? At the zoo– it’s time to take care of animals!