Work on Your Wellness: Community Service
Volunteering can be an uplifting experience if you engage in it with a genuine desire to bring about a positive difference in the lives of others. The thought of giving back to the community may have crossed your mind, but you may have wondered how to fit it into your busy schedule.
The sheer range of technical volunteering options available makes it possible for IT professionals to find time for suitable community service projects despite their packed schedules. Plenty of nonprofit organizations, community centers, institutions, and other groups are in need of technical assistance in one form or another.
Groups that organize educational outreach and technical support programs have volunteer events that last a number of hours, a weekend, a week or several weeks. You can take your pick according to your situation.
Benefits of Community Service
Serving your community in a way that aligns with your objectives, interests, and strengths is mutually beneficial. It not only helps improve the lives of others, it can do your mental and physical health much good.
A career in IT can be rewarding, but it is not necessarily without high stress and physical strain. Many tech workers regularly put in long hours, working to meet tight project deadlines and client expectations. This can result in frequent anxiety, inadequate sleep, eye strain and musculoskeletal pain. Performance can suffer, resulting in loss of productivity. In some cases, excessive work pressure can affect one’s personal life.
A technical volunteering project that matches your goals, values, interests and skills, even if it’s a weekend event or one that lasts just a few hours, can come as a much-needed diversion from workplace pressures, reduce stress and lift your mood.
Here are some of the ways that community service can improve mind and body:
Helps sustain physical health — Volunteering, or other forms of community service, can help you stay healthy. If you’re teaching technical skills or assisting with routine tech operations or development work, then you will likely be spending more time standing or moving around than you do at the office. This can help relieve chronic pain and eye strain.
Change of environment and connecting with eager and grateful students, seniors, military veterans and others looking to learn coding or technical skills or become digitally literate as well as with like-minded volunteers and staff usually turns out to be both relaxing and invigorating.
Relieves stress — Helping others and seeing them benefit is deeply meaningful and gratifying. This can help you recover from the effects of anxiety, anger, and fear, as well as develop a sense of calm and contentment.
Relieves depression — Being in contact and working with others fosters a sense of bonding and helps build social capital, which can be a solid source of support and have a positive effect on psychological health.
Boosts confidence — Doing good for people in need gives you the satisfaction of having accomplished something worthwhile. This builds confidence and self-belief.
Engenders a sense of purpose and fulfilment — Volunteering with intention can take your mind off concerns about work. It can focus your mind and heart on bringing about a difference in the lives of others, which helps increase compassion and empathy.
Promotes happiness — Research indicates that helping those in need and giving others something of value generates feelings of happiness. Giving can bring immense joy to the giver.
Community Service Opportunities
There are a range of interesting volunteer opportunities for tech professionals. Public facilities, such as libraries and senior centers, organize digital literacy courses for members, seniors, and others to enable them to develop the digital skills required to communicate, create and format résumés and other documents, search for information, and collaborate. Many of these courses are taught by volunteers.
Nonprofits and corporations alike organize educational outreach programs for students of different ages. There are a range of coding clubs around the world. Girls Who Code and CoderDojo are among the better-known nonprofits that teach young people programming. Volunteer opportunities include teaching, mentoring, preparing educational material, and organizing workshops.
If you are not interested in teaching or mentoring, then there are plenty of tech support opportunities available. IT workers with expertise in software and web development, networking, system administration and maintenance can offer technical assistance to non-profits, community centers and public institutions.
Besides helping with routine IT operations, including helpdesk support, IT professionals can offer web development assistance, cybersecurity support, and networking maintenance.
Get Information About Service Opportunities
For a fulfilling and enjoyable volunteering experience, you need to be clear about your reasons for volunteering. It’s sensible to devote some time to this. Ask yourself why you want to serve the community. What is your goal? What are your interests?
Then take a good look at your work schedule and consider your personal responsibilities. Determine how much time you can devote to community service.
Tap multiple sources to find out about suitable community service opportunities. Let family, friends, and others in your community know that you’re looking to volunteer. It’s likely that at least one or two people you know engage in voluntary community service in their free time.
The other option is to contact organizations that offer opportunities that might suit your goals, interests and schedule. Make a list of those that appear to align with your aims, interests and personality.
Remember that there is often a big difference between public image and reality. An organization and the opportunities it offers may appear a great fit on paper, but it might actually be something else. It is best to visit the places that you identify as possible options and talk to the program directors and some volunteers if you can, to get a sense of what the work and culture is really like.
If you’re interested in teaching children or adults how to code, contact the local chapters of non-profits, such as Girls Who Code and CoderDojo, to find out about opportunities in your area. Visit your local community volunteer center, the public library and other social and public institutions in your city to find out about technical service opportunities. You can also contact the local Chamber of Commerce.
Other sources of information about community service events include the following:
AmeriCorps is a federal government organization in the United States that offers volunteer opportunities nationwide. Additional information is available online.
TechSoup is a nonprofit international organization that assists other nonprofits with technical support and technological services and tools. They match technical workers with volunteer opportunities. Additional information is available online.