3rd year student Harris Watt written a blog post about his experiences of volunteering and why you should consider doing it yourself, ahead of Make a Difference Day (Sat 26th Oct)
Rather than thinking of volunteering as unpaid work, think about it as a good way to gain work experience in a particular field and develop social skills and confidence. As useful as volunteering is for helping someone learn to be more comfortable in social situations, it can be important for combating loneliness.
I have previously volunteered at the Dundee Museum of Transport, which houses vehicles from as far back as the 1920s. My time there really helped me boost my confidence since as I was the person welcoming guests and selling tickets and refreshments I had to come out of my shell. The social aspect of volunteering is perhaps the most crucial. Social media and mobile phones should make us more connected than ever but 18% of Europeans - about 75 million people - are socially isolated.
Those with poor health or who are unemployed are more likely to experience loneliness but this can be even worse for the elderly. One in five (22% or 2.6 million) elderly people say they will talk to no more than 3 people a week and more than half said even a short conversation would greatly improve their day.
Loneliness can impact both your physical and mental health: loneliness and isolation has an effect not dissimilar to obesity and smoking on mortality rates. It can increase our risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.
Organizations like Age UK, Contact the Elderly and Friends of the Elderly each offer different ways for lonely seniors to socialize; either through sending volunteers to people’s homes; or organising tea parties where seniors can gather and socialize.
The Brae is another great organization that provides riding for the disabled and makes use of volunteers to assist in its day to day running. Disabilities can be socially isolating, either because physical disability has reduced your ability to be independent, or due to fear and stigma surrounding certain disabilities.