Volunteering for right reasons
Why do people volunteer? Is it merely to
pad their resumés or increase their chances of getting
into graduate school? Or perhaps volunteers are a rare brand
of pure altruists, who are selflessly devoted to the welfare
It’s unfortunate that this second option should sound
so ludicrous, but the simple fact of the matter is that money
makes the world go round. It shouldn’t and we all wish
it wasn’t so, but when it comes right down to it, money
is the one thing most people in the Western world always want
But we still haven’t answered the primary question:
that is, why DO people volunteer, considering the fact that
it is unpaid, sometimes grueling and thankless work? Let’s
First we have the high school-style forced volunteerism, much
like prison-instituted community service, where students are
required to “volunteer” a certain number of hours
each week to meet requirements for a course. While “forced
volunteerism” is an undeniable oxymoron, students nonetheless
grudgingly trudge out to hospitals and food banks to meet the
minimum requirements needed to pass.
All the same, it can be argued that “forced volunteerism” can
open students’ eyes to the world of volunteering; sometimes
people just need a little prodding to get involved in such
activities. Arguably, class assignments that require volunteerism
could encourage students to go out and volunteer on their own
time, once they realized how personally rewarding it can be.
Next, there are the resumé padders, who know how much
more favourably employers look upon someone who devotes free
time to volunteering at the local humane society. Of course,
resumé padders do not necessarily enjoy their volunteer
stints, but hey — it’s all in the name of getting
a better job and making more money, which makes it worthwhile.
Finally, there are the people who volunteer because it makes
them feel good to know they’re helping others in need.
While this is a more commendable reason than the previous ones,
it can still be argued that it stems from the selfish need
to feel good about oneself. You know, the whole argument about
how altruism doesn’t exist and all our actions are inherently
selfish — but we’re getting too philosophical here.
The bottom line is that volunteerism should be something that
is neither forced nor used as a means to an end (ie. getting
a better job). There are tons of different volunteering opportunities
out there — aside from the traditional hospitals and
soup kitchens, there are volunteer positions in sporting, music,
theatre and the good ol’ Gazette. It’s worthwhile
to try it out, even if only for a week or so. Who knows, you
may actually find out that you like it.