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Opinions | Volunteering: What motivates you to help others?

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Mỹ Anh Phan

Volunteering is becoming more and more important. With the rise of conflict in different parts of the world, underprivileged people living below their means and peo­ple who simply need an extra helping hand, this act of ser­vice is vital.

What can we say about vol­unteerism? Greek philosopher Aristotle once said: “What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.”

As an effect of their contri­bution, volunteers reap great rewards.

By volunteering, you can acquire new skills and ex­periences, as well as make professional connections. Fur­thermore, volunteering adds to the sense of community. This kind of unity in one place makes for that feel-good and secure feeling.

So what are the different motivations behind volun­teering? What makes someone want to spend their free time serving others without getting paid?

There are two reasons that contribute to this: intrinsic factors and extrinsic factors. With intrinsic factors, the volunteer can find significant satisfaction in what they do because this motivation is de­pendent on the person’s inter­nal values. Because of this, the individual will feel good about themselves, thus making them want to do volunteer work again and again.

Extrinsic factors are exter­nal reasons that will benefit the individual, either in the moment or somewhere down the road. Extrinsic factors can be negative due to the mo­tivational drivers behind it. Some reasons can be career advancement or stronger so­cietal ties.

In the world of volunteer­ism, can one complain about people who fall into this cat­egory? There are students who have to put in hours for a course requirement, people who opt to do community service rather than paying off their ticket or those who vol­unteer because it “looks good on a resume.”

Honestly, if personal benefit is the motivation, it will show — particularly with the lack of enthusiasm.

Think of it this way, if you feel like you have to do some­thing for the sake of getting it done, rather than doing some­thing out of passion, then the result will be lacklustre. Engagement is inspired by authenticity — if an individ­ual’s eagerness is intrinsically motivated then it will shine through in the work that they do.

I have seen it firsthand when two people are doing the same volunteer job side by side, knowing one is intrinsically motivated while the other ex­trinsically. Nothing irritates me more than someone who displays distaste over doing mundane tasks — and failing miserably to be successful in the job at hand — just because they can’t see how they benefit from it.

What keeps my motivations in check is my volunteering experience from a trip to India in the summer of 2017. There, we spent time with a small community to help build a school for children who would walk for kilometers, rain or shine, just to get an education.

A trip like this truly opened my eyes to the realities of this world, and I realized how blessed I am to be in the po­sition to give to those in need. These kinds of experiences also challenge me to explore my own abilities and how I can effectively utilize them. These opportunities serve as a reminder that there is some­one else out there who is in more need than I am.

Volunteering has amaz­ing benefits both for those in need and for the volunteers themselves. So next time you extend a helping hand, re­member who is in a lucky po­sition and who is the one in need.

This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a rebuttal, please email

Kristine Jones A. Del Socorro

Graphic: Mỹ Anh Phan

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