Volunteering: Who would have thought!

Volunteering in and of itself brings so many rewards and often a multitude of benefits which may not be front of mind when you first thrust your hand up into the air (or, as is often the case for many of us, we are cajoled into it!).

Take volunteering to do the church gardens. This at first may be driven by religious beliefs – the need and satisfaction of giving back and helping. Maybe it’s appealing to keen gardeners. Whatever the reason, the benefits are often greater than the sum of the individual parts.

I have been volunteering as part of the Gardening Group at my local church for many a year. I use the word ‘volunteer’ loosely in that, at an unrelated garden fete one summer, the then co-ordinator simply signed me up. No discussion.  We meet once a month on a Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a mid morning tea and coffee break in between with accompanying cake! Our aim is to keep the church gardens in tip top condition.

Benefits of gardening include boosting physical health and mental wellbeing
A well earned rest over mince pies and gluwein.

I find it so rewarding on so many levels. Yes, I have picked up gardening tips; yes, I have benefitted from the often rigorous work-out. Being in the fresh air, enjoying the seasons and doing something manual has great appeal to me and brings enormous health benefits. Most importantly, though, it brings me in contact with people of different age groups, different professional backgrounds, different opinions and politics to whom I usually spend the majority of my time with. Some, at different stages, are going through life struggles, anxieties, illness; others celebrating achievements, excitement over changes they are embracing. We laugh and we sometimes cry. Such social interaction, either through helping or being helped, boosts feeling of being connected and promotes well being and better mental health. Studies have shown that being part of a group is important for you health – we benefit from both the bonds we share with other group members, and how belonging to that group tells us something about who we are.