In the transformative wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, no area of life, including the volunteering sector, has been left untouched. As our global communities battled unexpected challenges, the volunteering sphere quickly adapted to the new normal.
A study by the Belgium Red Cross and the Department of Public Health, in cooperation with the Global Health unit in South Africa, concluded;
Societies with more volunteering have been less affected by COVID-19, accounting for variations in demographics, GDP, healthcare investments, and vaccination rates. Although not causal, our findings imply that factors beyond public-private debates could influence societal resilience to a pandemic, societal volunteering being one.
This article investigates the transformative influence of volunteering on both individuals and communities amidst changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. It showcases how volunteering, a significant source of social capital, not only combats loneliness and instils well-being in individuals, it enhances overall social resilience.
1. Welcoming the Surge in Virtual Volunteering
Revolutionary changes are afoot in the volunteering arena, gaining more momentum than ever. Organisations are utilising digital platforms to facilitate volunteer recruitment, coordination, and communication. Websites, mobile apps, and social media are essential conduits for matching volunteers with opportunities and disseminating crucial information, ensuring a smooth experience for both volunteers and organisations. This has thrust virtual volunteering into prominence, allowing individuals to contribute remotely and extend their impact beyond physical boundaries.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to understand that while virtual volunteering is a powerful tool, not every volunteering activity needs to be virtual simply because it can be. We’ll delve deeper into this in the context of mental health initiatives.
2. Placing Emphasis on Mental Health and Well-being through Volunteering
The pandemic has uncovered the significant impact on mental health and well-being. Volunteering has shifted to support mental health, with volunteers providing emotional support, conducting online counselling, and raising awareness about mental health issues. While commendable, it’s crucial to carefully implement these initiatives across different demographics, cultures, and societies. Asian societies, for instance, often resist depicting vulnerability due to stigma. Dr Narayan Gopalkrishnan from James Cook University, Australia, explains this well:
Although Western mental health theory and practice have been useful in relieving mental distress, they can cause issues when applied without considering cultural differencesGopalkrishnan, N. (2018, May 31). Cultural Diversity and Mental Health: Considerations for Policy and Practice. Frontiers. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00179
Though this is primarily relevant in clinical contexts, these approaches and mindsets do influence and impact mental health-focused volunteering activities. Especially so with the advent of digital volunteering that enables virtual exchanges between participants across the globe. It’s vital to recognise that various cultures might focus more on community or family dynamics rather than individual experiences or pathologies.
3. Recognising and Celebrating Volunteers
The COVID-19 crisis underscored the need to appreciate volunteers for their remarkable efforts. Traditional volunteer appreciation events transitioned to virtual platforms, with organisations utilising digital certificates, personalised thank-you messages, and social media to publically laud volunteers.
It’s also essential to remember that people volunteer for diverse reasons, and not all seek the same forms of recognition or celebration. For instance, volunteers who contribute out of spirituality, faith or a deep sense of altruism see the act itself as the goal. In these cases, the act serves the community, fulfils a spiritual need or actualises their purpose of doing good. It’s beneficial to understand the reasons behind people’s volunteering to improve communication and engagement.
Additionally, individuals accustomed to high digitalisation levels might experience digital fatigue and may prefer more traditional appreciation methods.
4. Our Mission and Motivation
At Force for Good, we earnestly strive to contribute sustainable, meaningful efforts to bridge societal gaps worldwide. We endeavour to encapsulate the essence of an organisation’s efforts to connect with people and amplify their Social Impact.
With the prevalence of technology, the core human elements can sometimes be overlooked. We aspire to rekindle the passions and dreams that unite us all, ensuring no one is left behind. With our technological platform, we enable organisations to onboard their communities and craft a deeply meaningful and personal experience for each individual to further advance an organisation’s CSR and employee engagement efforts.
We would love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today.