Vitamin V for a healthier life and community
You cannot buy this vitamin at any drug or health food store. The "V" in this supplement refers to volunteering. It is readily available everywhere and the cost is donated time not dollars. Even better, it can improve your health and strengthen communities.
Studies from the Harvard Medical School recently linked the act of volunteering to improved health and a longer lifespan. People aged 50 years and older, who devote at least 100-200 hours per year to serving in the community, will get the greatest benefit from incorporating “v” in their lives. There is a caveat. The time spent volunteering must be truly altruistic!
Mental health benefits are seen when people support a cause or event they are passionate about. The increased involvement in the community leads them to be more socially connected, reducing the likelihood of loneliness, which can often lead to depression in older adults. The physical benefits of volunteering are linked to lowering blood pressure. This happens due to the increased physical activity that is often associated when helping out a charity or event. Becoming more active in this way can have the same effect as exercising, which is known to reduce blood pressure. This leads to a healthier cardiovascular system, a lower risk for suffering a stroke and dying prematurely.
Health benefits aside, there are many other positive reasons to volunteer. One, is an opportunity to learn new skills and expand on knowledge, which is great brain food. Meeting new people with common interests that may blossom into new friendships is another wonderful thing that can happen. It can build self-esteem and sometimes open doors to an exciting opportunity never imagined possible. The most important reason of all is knowing that your involvement in a fundraiser or event helped make it a success for the organizers, participants and the community!
The trigger to begin adding Vitamin V in life should not come from doctors reporting high blood pressure readings or waiting for a void in your life to occur. Children leaving the family nest, losing a spouse, or retiring from a long career are examples where free time can appear in one's life. Giving back to the community and helping others in a time of need are activities that should be introduced to children as early as possible and parents need to lead by example. Otherwise, kids will consider these acts as chores and not worthy of their time. When high schools introduced community hours to the curriculum and made their fulfillment a requirement for graduation, it was a great start in the right direction. It is the spark to get many teenagers involved in their communities, and this is a very positive movement.
Parents who are successful at raising children to lend a helping hand to those in need are usually very involved in their communities. Encouraging a child to offer to take an elderly neighbour's pet for a walk regularly can be instrumental in instilling the importance of helping others.
Once the decision is made to get on the volunteer train, the question becomes: "Where should I volunteer?" There are so many registered charities and not-for-profit organizations that really need help. They are often operating on limited funding while providing essential services in our communities. Volunteers in many of these charities are the backbone of the operation and help keep the services alive. Organizations like Volunteer Ottawa and United Way (Ottawa) can help connect people with the right charity or not-for-profit.
Music, arts, and culture lovers also have many options, especially in the spring, as festival season in the nation's capital begins. Big, small, Ottawa Festivals lists them all! Their website is a wealth of information. If community radio strikes a chord, contact the folks at CKCU (Carleton University’s community radio station), which is also run by a dedicated team of volunteers. New volunteers are always welcome.
OGF Festival Launch
A festival which is fast approaching and looking for volunteers is the Ottawa Grassroots Festival (OGF). It is a not-for-profit organization, run entirely by volunteers, which takes place indoors at Southminster United Church April 26-29, 2018 in Old Ottawa South. Help is needed with surveys, raffles, food preparation, volunteer registration, merchandise and ticket sales, social media, communications, silent auction, just to name a few areas. The festival launch is March 1, 2018 at 2pm at Pressed Café (Gladstone-Centretown Ottawa). Join new and returning volunteers at this event.
There is an important part of the volunteering process that must be addressed. It is commitment. A common misconception is that since work is provided free of charge, there is no obligation to fulfill the volunteering hours. Volunteering should be a win-win situation. However, if someone decides there is something better to do than showing up to complete a volunteer shift, there are no winners, only losers. Organizations and event organizers are left short-handed, and having to assign the work to others. Thankfully, most volunteers do understand the importance of following through on work that is assigned. Many become dedicated team players, or ready to return when needed.
Our communities are richer, healthier and stronger because of the involvement and dedication of thousands of volunteers. I'm so glad to be part of the Vitamin V team! Hoping you will be inspired to become involved too!