The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 3, July 2012

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Volunteering Can Offer “Big Picture” Challenges

By Marian V. De Souza, LL.B., Executive Director, Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society (Assist)

A recent survey from Great Britain says “volunteering can be counted on to keep you smiling.” The poll indicated “being happy” as the main reason for volunteering at 42%, “being connected” as the next popular reason at 38%. While ahead of being “employed” (5%), “good” (5%) and “healthy” (3%),” was, “I volunteer to help me be sexy” (7%). (

Perhaps not what President Obama meant when he included a commitment to make the United States a nation of volunteers, through Stimulus Package efforts. Joking aside, Obama’s charge to engage more people in volunteering is in the context of a downturn in the economy and improving a nation.

For one reason or another, a tough economic climate causes many to refocus efforts on volunteering. Yet, come rain or shine, many lawyers volunteer to give back to the community, share specialized learning to help others less fortunate and support a good cause. The quid pro quo: it’s good for you.

Mary McShane in 5 Reasons Why Volunteering is Good for Your Health, Holistic Health Benefits of the Obama Stimulus Package discusses how volunteering: 1) reduces stress; 2) helps us to think positively; 3) keeps us interested in life; 4) expands and engages our social network and 5) enriches our spiritual life.

Many studies show that volunteering helps overcome depression. Isolation is a risk factor for depression. Volunteering provides a social network; this connection with others develops a support system. In turn, this support helps protect against the effects of stress and depression during difficult times.

Volunteer opportunities also provide the ability to learn and develop new skills in a safe, risk-free environment, a collegial atmosphere formed by joining others with a common interest. Volunteer with family and benefits are exponential for ourselves, our family and those we seek to help.

For high achievers, volunteering can offer unique and possibly “big picture” challenges: feeding the hungry, clothing and educating children, providing housing and shelter, just to name a few. These challenges can offer the ability to contribute in ways not always offered by our day-to-day work. What follows naturally from such a sense of accomplishment is a healthy boost of self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. Our role as a volunteer, can also provide a sense of pride and identity. The better we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to have a positive view of our life and future goals.

Above all else, research shows volunteers live longer, healthier lives.

More about benefits to volunteering can be found at:

Hopefully, this issue of the Advisory is all that is needed to inspire and lead you to new and exciting volunteer opportunities. If working with lawyers on a personal level resonates with you and you are interested in helping your peers reach their full potential, Assist welcomes you joining our team to ensure the profession stays happy, healthy and connected.

More information about peer support is available at or please contact me or Carolyn McCartney at 403- 537-5508 to find an opportunity that suits you.

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