We have all been through a lot in the past couple of years, and in many ways, for many of us, life has changed. As we celebrate National Volunteer Week from April 24 to 30, I’m reflecting on this year’s theme: Volunteering is empathy in action.
Empathy is about being aware of, and sensitive to, the experience of someone else. Empathy reduces stress, connects you to others and can even offset burnout. Volunteering helps develop empathy by connecting you to people and organizations in your community that are helping others. When you volunteer, you are giving to others, you are supporting something bigger than yourself and your own goals, and you are acting empathy in your life. In turn, you are supporting your own mental health. This year, the Canadian Mental Health Association has declared mental health week “All about empathy” as well, stating, “Let’s stop polarizing and start empathizing.”
A Harvard medical school blog points to increasing evidence that volunteering helps lower blood pressure and contributes to a longer lifespan, noting a 2012 study on aging and health published in the Journal of Health. If you are volunteering for something that helps you stay physically or mentally active, your health will be improved, even as you age.
Through volunteering, you can deepen your connection to others and to your community, develop empathy, improve your health, and experience gratitude, all of which can contribute to your overall wellbeing. If you are feeling isolated or are facing some new challenges brought on by the pandemic, it might be time to consider volunteering. You will thank yourself for it.
This National Volunteer Week, my hope is to encourage people in Canada to get out and volunteer, to connect with each other and to rebuild our sense of community. I am grateful for every person who contributes to strong and healthy communities across our country and beyond its borders. Let’s celebrate National Volunteer Week, think about how volunteering makes our communities better, and consider supporting a cause that is important to you.
Mia Gardiner, director of volunteer experience, Canadian Cancer Society
Parking pass for hospital staff a simple solution
Come on, Health Minister Adrian Dix, don’t try and tell us that due to a very few people taking advantage of the free parking at hospital parking lots, our health-care workers should have to pay to work at our hospitals where we desperately need them. A simple parking pass issued to those health-care workers would resolve this and help to ensure we keep these folks in our health-care system.
D’Arcy Leoppky, Maple Ridge