Making a difference in your lives through volunteer work

By Safa Saleh

Watching the homeless people lie down on cardboards in the streets of Kuala Lumpur at night sent shivers down my spine. At that moment I made a promise to myself to help others with something even as simple as a smile.

My Experience

Walking in the middle of the night in search for the homeless to give them food, was a very touching experience. I saw many people lying down or sleeping on either cardboards or newspapers on the pavement. If it’s a cold night, some of them would be even shivering. It made me realise how we could sometimes be blind and very ungrateful for the countless blessings that we have. For as human beings we are always greedy and our souls are never satisfied but dealing with the homeless in person has softened my heart and completely changed my perspective of life.

It made me realise that I’m not as grateful as I should be, and that in life everybody matters. Additionally, this experience made me keep in mind the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) words about gratitude when he said, “Look to those lower than you and do not look to those above you, lest you view the favours of Allah as trivial.”  Also, it reminded me that every penny we pay for charity is never lost and that the more we thank Allah for our blessings, the more Allah showers us with abundant blessings.

Diversity of Volunteering

Volunteering is diverse where it’s not just narrowed down to only charity events and collecting donations but it also includes tutoring, teaching orphans or poor children, feeding the homeless, building schools or digging out wells in underprivileged regions, cleaning the environment, and visiting nursing homes…etc.

Volunteering as an experience is a privilege because I feel like I’m getting back more than I am actually giving. Volunteering has helped me in many ways; it expanded my circle of friends, I gained new skills, and I grew as an individual.

Examples of Non-profit Organisations suitable for Students

Every Friday night at midnight, the ‘I Can Feed the Poor’ volunteering members would go out to the streets searching for homeless people to give them food. Donations are the back bone for this non-governmental IIUM-based organisation. Also, I volunteered with the International Student Affairs’ program; ‘Ummatic Global Festival’ which is a one week programme in IIUM that consists of many international events that emphasise the oneness of the Ummah (Muslim Nation).

If you prefer volunteering in a small group within the IIUM community, you could teach a class in SLEU which you can later on mention in your Resume or CV when you start job hunting. Furthermore, there are numerous non-government organsations we can work with such as Life Makers, the Red Crescent, UNICEF, and World Wide Fund for Nature …etc.

Benefits of Volunteering

It is a blessing in disguise, because of the abundant lessons it teaches you and the wonderful different people you meet and the experiences that you get to encounter. Volunteering helps you meet a diverse range of people, and it helps you gain new skills. Also, it increases your self-confidence as well as your social skills and it helps you maintain a healthy body and mind. In addition, it lowers your levels of stress and it can teach you valuable job skills boosting your career options. It provides a sense of purpose and it brings fulfillment to your life, since there is nothing more fulfilling for a volunteer than to realise how much of an impact he can make in this world.

Statistics of the Benefits

A study of data from the Americans’ Changing Lives survey found that those who volunteered in 1986 reported higher levels of happiness, life-satisfaction, self-esteem, a sense of control over life, and physical health, as well as lower levels of depression, in 1989. Also, several longitudinal studies have found that those individuals who volunteer during the first wave of the survey have lower mortality rates at the second wave of the survey, even when taking into account such factors as physical health, age, socio-economic status and gender. According to a study by United Health Group, 94% of people who volunteer say that volunteering help improve their mood. Also, 78% say that it lowers their stress levels, and 96% say that it enriches their sense of purpose in life. Moreover, 80% of the volunteers feel that they have control over their health.

Volunteering is an act that is good for us and for our community; it allows us to make a difference in this world by changing lives. It benefits us on so many levels, some of which are networking, gaining new skills, a better health, a longer and a stress-free life. We can make use of our free time as students by volunteering in the diverse activities and events that are available to us.

For a stress-free life, therefore, you might want to consider giving volunteering a try.***

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