Oasis Magazine Articles

Building Character & Communities

By Wael Omar



In life, very few things are geared toward building a sense of our civic duties. In fact, far more often you never even know what ‘civic duties’ entail, unless you take the first step by volunteering. Having attended an international school since primary school, I was first introduced to the idea of volunteerism through school. My teachers actively persuaded each of us to take on certain activities and duties that went beyond the school curriculum and school hours. Who wants to spend more time in school doing work that won’t directly help us in any visible or immediate way? There’s no extra credit, and often no recognition on a wide scale. But what most of us discovered is that volunteering does pay, and it pays big - but only if you are able to see the bigger picture.  

Volunteer work isn’t always about social initiatives and helping the hungry or orphaned. Of course, those are noble kinds of work that a volunteer can do, but it is also not the only type of volunteering. It is often a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, and gain valuable experience in companies and organizations working in your field of interest. But inevitably the idea of volunteerism boils down to giving your time and effort without any tangible compensation. 

As a filmmaker, I’ve worked with the UN documenting various projects that involve developing volunteer culture in small towns across numerous Egyptian provinces. I can testify to the incredible and important transformations that happen to people and communities whenever volunteer initiatives are created, developed, and then adopted within communities for perpetuation. 

These are what I believe to be the 5 biggest benefits of volunteering.

A Sense of Community

Similar to being part of a theater ensemble or a sports team, the average volunteer is part of a larger ecosystem in which they play an integral part. An organization or community comes together to work for a common purpose, and the volunteer is part of that. With any team, group, or crew there is a certain sense of elation in being part of something bigger that is accomplishing things. Those feelings of fraternity and teamwork also provide the foundations for learning how larger collaborations work, which is an invaluable life lesson. Inevitably, we are all going to be part of such groups and systems as we go through life, whether it’s a company, a bank, a team, or a branch of government – so volunteering is a good head start on how to make that work.

Experience & Adventure

Volunteering comes with a package of obligations and responsibilities, but also gives back. Most volunteers find that they need to build their experience levels in various skills and directions, particularly the much needed interpersonal skills required to be successful in life. But there is also the underrated sense of adventure in life that comes alive when you volunteer and the goal comes to fruition and is accomplished on the set, specific date. There is a certain exhilaration that comes with being part of something that must and will happen, with so many moving parts that must happen in a precise order or else it will be catastrophic. That is fun for some people, much like theater. For other volunteers that go into field work with humanitarian agencies like the Red Cross, the work is both adventurous and extremely serious.

Deeper Insights & Understanding

It is not always easy to get a true understanding of the area you want to dedicate your life’s work to when you are choosing a field or career. This is where doing “career-oriented” volunteer work comes in handy. Interning is a hybrid form of volunteering, and has become a very important resource that most multinationals need and put to good use. But volunteering in a place where you might want to work some day is a great way to know the ins and outs of how that organization or business ticks.

Personal Fulfillment & Satisfaction

This is the natural product of finding something you love or really have a passion for, and giving everything you can for no compensation. There is a form of higher fulfillment in knowing that you are part of something that could only happen with your effort and other volunteers like you. You feel a sense of ownership for the task you’re doing and the contribution to the project, initiative, NGO, or brand. One must also not understate the importance of the camaraderie and relationships that are built during the volunteer experience.

Networking

This is a word you hear a lot. It permeates our life, but human interaction is the fundamental building block in creating those relationships and friendships that we make for life. Whether for work or for our personal lives, we need people in order to function. Volunteer work is helpful in creating these relationships for our work and social lives. In fact, I have seen incredible and lifelong friendships develop between volunteers because of their similar passions and goals. In every type of volunteer work out there, this insight holds true.

Although volunteering culture is not widely prevalent in Egyptian society, there are still several opportunities to get involved if you search for it. Children’s orphanages, cancer hospitals, elderly and retirement communities, animal shelter initiatives, and a budding arts and culture scene all serve as venues for locals and expats to get involved. So if you would like to get started on reaping some of these benefits, get in touch today!





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