When I was thirteen years old, my aunt asked her eldest son to pick up a newspaper on his way home. My cousin returned from work that evening with a Trinidad Express newspaper and tucked inside of it was a copy of the Sunday Punch newspaper. For those on this platform who don’t know, the Sunday Punch was a decades-old publication that featured the Caribbean’s music, culture and top party spots, along with concerts, fetes, and of course, the beautiful women. As children we were told not to look at that newspaper but my cousin brought it home and I wanted to have a look so I quickly skimmed the notorious pages that displayed scantily clad women until one article caught my eye.
Perhaps it was because the article seemed out of place that I stopped to read it. The headline read, “Woman and children plead for help.” It was accompanied by a photograph of the woman and her children in torn clothing standing in front of a small wooden home that was partially built against a tree. My heart sank. I needed to return the Sunday Punch before anyone asked for it so I quickly removed the folded page and tucked it away until it was safe to read.
That night I couldn’t sleep. The image of the mother and children bore into my soul and the next day I frantically began making calls to the newspaper to track down the reporter. I had no plan. I then met with my close friends at school and shared the article with them and by the end of the day we got to work. Four weeks later my friends and I accompanied the same reporter to the woman’s home and presented her with an abundance of items to help ease her burdens. Shortly after that my team and I appeared in an article in the Sunday Punch documenting our little project of hope. It was hardly likely anyone would have read the article but it didn’t matter to us because we had stumbled upon something we wanted to continue doing.
In the years to follow we remained guided in our purpose and vision to make our communities a better place and to improve the world through empathy and acts of selfless service. We became passionate about people solving problems and achieving their goals and we became advocates for how a volunteering community can build a better society.
With each passing year we worked on charity projects that helped us to understand that volunteering increases your happiness and improves your overall mental health. Studies have proven that when you stop thinking about your own problems and focus on others, your stress levels start to decrease. Your immune system is strengthened and your overall sense of satisfaction with your own life increases. Doing something for someone else interrupts tension-producing patterns and replaces them with a sense of purpose, positive emotions and higher confidence levels. When people are happy people, they in turn, create happy environments.
These skills are universal.
According to a Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey conducted in 2016, 92% of surveyed corporate executives agreed that persons contributing their business skills and expertise to a non-profit is an effective way to improve employees’ leadership traits and to broaden their professional skillsets. A large portion of the volunteer industry is carefully structured as a business model and therefore creates positions and opportunities for you to improve your teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and people skills. Opportunities also exist for you to mentor and motivate others and change their lives for the better.
There are many reasons why people volunteer and these vary from person to person. What’s certain is that when you find the right fit, you’ll enrich the lives of others and your life will be made better by the experience. Adding to the empowerment of others can make your time and participation one that is rewarding and happy.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Light-bulb moments happen all the time. A photograph of a destitute mother in the Sunday Punch newspaper who had no option but to publicly seek help for herself and her children left a lasting impression on me and it is the reason why I spend my weekends and all personal time working in the service of others.
Everyone has the capacity and natural tendency to become a more compassionate human being. A raging worldwide pandemic and a local community in need provides numerous avenues to build a better society. Now more than ever our world needs people with a desire to make a change without the hope of a personal reward. It’s time to own the power that you have to help others and to recognise the benefits of volunteering in your life.
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