Health benefits of volunteering and community service
Physician's Weekly
June 25, 2024

Health benefits of volunteering and community service

The Cambridge dictionary defines volunteerism as the practice of doing work for good causes, without being paid for it. Wikipedia defines community service as unpaid work performed by a person or group of people for the benefit and betterment of their community.

Reasons why people volunteer

● Give back to their community.
● Improve their community.
● Passionate about a cause.
● Love helping others.
● It improves biopsychosocial health.
● Fosters a sense of purpose and boosts self-esteem.
● Develop a new skill.
● Facilitates hands-on experience.
● Social networking.
● An asset when added to a job resume.
● Some universities/ colleges require applicants to show evidence that they have volunteered
● It’s a positive example for others – family, friends, colleagues, etc.

Biopsychosocial (health) benefits of volunteering

Studies show several biopsychosocial benefits for those who gift their time, skills, and expertise to community service. Benefits for volunteers include:

● Experiencing reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. This is a result of the increased release of dopamine; the brain’s pleasure hormone.
● Concurrently this translates contiguously into reduced chances of developing depression, anxiety, hypertension, a range of cancers, diabetes, a heart attack, or a stroke.
● Improved life expectancy when compared to non-volunteers.
● Generally, improved physical and psychological well-being; this is most noticeable in those over 60.
● Meeting new people and establishing new relationships.
● Developing and cultivating a greater sense of gratitude and purpose.
● Facilitating social networking among the volunteers.

Suggested ideas for those who are interested in community service.


● Become a blood donor.
● Donate to or raise funds for the Red Cross.
● Donate funds, clothing items, houseware, bed linen, small furniture, books, textbooks, toys/ games, and non-perishable food items to the Salvation Army.
● Professionals can write a newspaper column, host or appear on a radio/ TV programme, and avail themselves of speaking engagements regarding subject areas matching their training, expertise, and skill.
● Medical personnel can periodically volunteer their services to events such as Rotary’s The Village Doctor programme, the Lions Club (Kingstown) Bosom Buddies breast cancer screening programme, and others.
● Begin a movement to address “period poverty” (i.e. inability to purchase sanitary products) among school girls.
● Help organize the delivery of pillows, bed linen, toiletries, toilet paper, sanitary products, etc to hospitalized patients.
● Help with voter registration for first-time voters and relocated persons.

Children and Schools :

● Retired teachers can provide lessons after school.
● Donate small child-safe toys and stuffed animals to children in the paediatric ward.
● Organize games/ activities for children in the paediatric ward.
● Donate baby clothes, and other items to mothers who have recently delivered.
● Collect used sports equipment to donate to schools.
● Sports personalities can become involved in coaching the youth.
● Musicians can give music lessons to schoolchildren.
● Donate used children’s books/ textbooks to schools and children’s homes.

Senior Citizens:

● Read books, newspapers, and religious texts to nursing home residents.
● Sponsor groceries and meals for the indigent in your area.
● Organise weekly games/ karaoke nights for nursing home residents.
● Spend time with nursing home residents/ elderly recording (with their permission) their often rich life stories, respectively.
● Fill/ collect prescriptions for an elderly person.

Community Enhancement

● Organize a garbage collection drive.
● Have abandoned cars removed.
● De-bush all vacant lots.
● Create safe play areas for children/ teenagers.
● Organise to have a best garden competition with prizes.
● Buy local wherever possible (e.g. vegetables, fruit, provisions, etc.)
● Start a community composting programme. The compost can be used by anyone involved in growing vegetables, provisions, etc.
● Help the infirmed clean their homes and surroundings.

The Diaspora:

● Professionals, artisans, and other experts can periodically volunteer their services to SVG.
● Adopt a community/ school/ government clinic/ ward at the hospital.
● Remittances – continue, increase (if possible), and encourage others to do the same.
● Offer to accommodate/ adopt students from their homeland.
● Transfer knowledge/ skills.
● Invest in property and business at home.
● Retire home.
● Encourage friends, workmates, and others to visit home.
● Promote foreign direct investment.

Animals and the Environment:

● Veterinarians volunteer to spay and neuter stray dogs.
● Participate in the clean-up of a river, beach, and or community.
● Plant fruit trees in your community.
● Organize the de-bushing and clean up of vacant lots.

Hungry and Homeless:

● Spearhead the raising of funds for constructing housing for the homeless.
● Organize to get as many homeless as possible evaluated by a psychiatrist (many have untreated mental health illnesses).
● Donate non-perishable food items, toiletries, dental care products, used clothes, footwear, eyeglasses, etc.
● Open a soup kitchen.

Crime Reduction:

● Organize a community watch programme.
● Raise funds to install CCT cameras in your community.
● Organize community meetings with law enforcement.
● De-bush and clear unoccupied lots.
● Look into introducing (additional) street lights.
Alternatively, you can join an established service club such as:
● Lions
● Rotary
● Soroptimist
● Kiwanis
● Others
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile “ – Albert Einstein

Author: Dr. C. Malcolm Grant – Family Physician, Family Care Clinic, Arnos Vale.
Former tutor in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados.
For appointments:, 1(784)570-9300 (Office),
1(784)455-0376 (WhatsApp).
Disclaimer: The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you are seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Dr. C. Malcolm Grant, Family Care Clinic or The Searchlight Newspaper or their associates, respectively, are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information provided above.