For people considering using their free time to volunteer, a plethora of opportunities exist. There has probably never been a better time – during the COVID-19 pandemic – to offer assistance to others. In this article we look at student mentorships.
What many people do not realize before they begin on this journey is that volunteering is often much more beneficial to the giver than the receiver. From a philosophical perspective – as Mahatma Gandhi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – to the practical perspective, as Bernard Meltzer said: “There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.”
Before I began volunteering, I was concerned about the time aspect. I often felt I did not have enough hours in the day to complete my own tasks. But when I began on my volunteer journey I actually I found that I had more time. The reason for this was twofold:
1. I was energized by the volunteer work I did.
2. I became more organized as a result of having less time!
I can thus say that I am certain that my experience has resulted in a complete embodiment of the above quote by Gandhi.
As a youth mentor through Inspirica – an organization that seeks to match volunteers with “every type of student in every academic circumstance” – I have found a huge vacuum in the educational sphere. The idea that “one size fits all” is false, but given the limits of the school system, that is the accepted structure. As such, more committed volunteers are needed to help students navigate their curriculum and gain confidence in their abilities. One-on-one mentoring has proven to be extremely helpful for this.
COVID-19 has produced both challenges and opportunities for volunteers in the academic sphere. Due to lockdowns and isolation periods, the majority of school kids are receiving substantially less school instruction. But on the flip side, they have more time to focus on it. The issue is, finding the right mentor volunteer. In some situations potential volunteers have more availability (either they are working from home or have lost their jobs), but they also have more to do (taking care of their own kids who otherwise would have been at school; finding a new job).
I would advise people – even if they have lost their jobs – to seriously consider volunteering with school age kids. While they may initially feel intimidated by the prospect this is what I have found:
1. Volunteering usually bolsters the volunteer’s self-esteem.
2. The volunteer does not need much training to start helping others; just the will to learn.
3. The bond that is developed between the volunteer and the student can be lifechanging.
4. The outcome of the work undertaken is equally beneficial to both volunteer and student.
5. The volunteer will find the time to look for a job and will be more energized doing so having helped someone else.
6. Volunteering can expand one’s skill set which also helps in the job searching process.
Ultimately, I truly believe Bernard Meltzer hit the nail on the head when he said “there is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.” You really will get so much more out of it than you put in.
Whatever challenges present themselves during COVID-19 such as lockdowns and isolation, technology and creative thinking will engineer the solutions.