Around this time of year, it’s a good idea to take a moment to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for. And at the holidays especially, we’re often reminded of how important it is to volunteer or engage in local community work. However, did you know there is “a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer?”
In fact, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service “those who give support through volunteering experience greater health benefits than those who receive support through these activities.*”
So how do you engage with your community in a way that is meaningful to you, your team and the people you are serving? Doing a bit of research and asking the following important questions will help you choose opportunities that will have far reaching benefits.
- How do you want to benefit your local community? What would be meaningful to you?
- Do you want to give back in your capacity as a dental practitioner or do work that is completely unrelated to your practice? There are many good options for how to spend your volunteer time. No matter what you choose, be sure it is something you will enjoy.
- Do you want to volunteer at a specific event or have a more long-term volunteer experience? Assess your ability to give your time and skills in both the short and long terms.
- What groups in your community have a positive reputation AND are well organized? Make sure you vet any group you consider working with to ensure that you are comfortable aligning your name with theirs.
If you choose to use your skills as a dentist to benefit others, check out the ADA’s website to learn about the volunteer opportunities they offer. Your state’s dental association website may have additional, more localized options. A Google search that includes your locale and “dental volunteer opportunities” should uncover some potential options. And if you are looking abroad for opportunities to give back, there are a plethora of options, including:
Another idea that may require additional time is to volunteer as a Big Brother or Big Sister. As a representative of one of the most highly paid professions in the country, your service as a mentor to a “Little” could be an invaluable experience for both of you. According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ website “81% of former Littles surveyed agree their Big gave them hope & changed their perspective of what they thought possible.”
Finally, don’t forget to tell your clients about your good work in the community. This is not just good public relations; it may inspire them to volunteer as well.