As children, we often learn to treat people the way we would want to be treated, or how being helpful is important because it benefits the world around us. But what if helping our community not only benefits the world and the people who live in it, but also our own health?
This post explores how being kind through volunteering and advocacy affects your physical, mental, and social health. Additionally, this article will describe why you should volunteer for an organization that supports your community, like the Turner Syndrome Foundation (TSF).
Types of Volunteering
A volunteer is someone who willingly gives their time or skills to benefit others. Volunteers can make a huge difference in others’ lives. Volunteering can be categorized into two types:
- Other-oriented volunteering: This is volunteering in health, social, education, youth development, social benefits, and other philanthropic activities. In other-oriented volunteering, the focus is entirely on helping others.
- Self-oriented volunteering: Volunteers who participate in voluntary services for art, culture, environmental welfare, and other services are self-oriented volunteers. Self-oriented volunteering focuses on helping others and improving one’s skills.
Have you ever wondered why people who actively volunteer their time to help others, including family members and relatives, are happier? Helping others leads to finding meaning in our lives and connecting us with the most genuine parts of ourselves. We feel more in sync with ourselves and others and notice subtle differences in our thinking patterns.
Also, we become less absorbed in our everyday chores and routines and the stresses they bring about. In a way, by helping others, we help ourselves. There are many benefits to volunteering. However, as reported by multiple studies, the most important is its direct correlation with good health overall.
Physical Health Benefits
Those who volunteer have fewer health problems like hypertension, heart problems, etc. For example:
- According to a study from the University of Michigan, seniors who help others reduce their risk of dying by 60%, compared to others who do not provide practical help or emotional support to family, neighbors, or friends.
- A unique study in Canada (Schreier, et al., 2013) found that volunteering can improve the cardiovascular health of adolescents.
Mental Health Benefits
Volunteering helps foster positive thinking. When volunteering, we develop gratitude and focus more on what we have than what we don’t. This helps kindle positive thoughts.
- A study (Griep, et al., 2017) reports that volunteering at later stages of life can help reduce cognitive decline and risks of dementia. Volunteering gives seniors a fixed structure, which helps them engage in both social and physical activities in their communities.
- Being a volunteer helps mitigate the negative impacts of stress and may reduce the effects of stress on your emotional functioning.
Social Health Benefits
Volunteering is a pro-social activity, helping to build social networks and ties. It is a great way to meet new people who may share similar interests.
During the pandemic, it has been difficult for many people to maintain their social networks and connectedness. Volunteering virtually can provide a way to still interact with others with similar interests.
Turner Syndrome (TS) is a chromosomal disorder that affects 1 in 2000 female births. Only 1-2% of fetuses with TS survive to birth. The condition occurs when one X sex chromosome is either partially or entirely missing. Doctors recommend that TS should be diagnosed in the first few years of life for the best possible health outcomes. It can be diagnosed during pregnancy by amniocentesis. After birth, a karyotype blood test is the most reliable and widely used diagnostic test. TS can cause varied medical and developmental challenges, including short height, cardiac issues, reproductive and heart health challenges, social anxiety, and other challenges.
TSF is a non-profit organization established to support research initiatives and open the door for educational programs that increase TS awareness among the public, the medical community, educators, and parents/caregivers.
One of TSF’s primary objectives is been to promote better medical care for TS patients. TSF has supported research and patients with TS through websites, blogs, webinars, media coverage, conferences, and fundraising campaigns.
Laura Fasciano is the Director and Founding President of TSF. She first organized the TS New Jersey chapter in 2008. In December 2009, the TS NJ chapter was reorganized and established as TSF. Laura often visits, writes to, and speaks with legislators and industry leaders about improving life outcomes of those in the TS community.
Supporting TSF's Cause as a Volunteer
One way y0u can be helpful to the TS community and spread kindness is by being a TSF volunteer. Some examples of ways to support the TS community are:
- working to help those with TS to overcome their challenges by supporting and maintaining a connection with them, making them feel safe and heard;
- inspiring caregivers, parents, and others to advocate for the TS community through research, legal protections, and fostering change, which will help better inform the TS community about available resources to help them lead better lives;
- helping provide essential information and resources to the TS community; and
- inspiring self-confidence within TS in themselves, assuring them that they can live meaningful, productive, engaging, and successful lives.
TSF Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteers are critical to TSF’s mission and can contribute as a:
- blog post writer/editor
- video editor
- graphics designer
- social media specialist
- awareness ambassador
- event creator or host
- business analyst
- data miner
- support group coordinator
- network developer
Other Ways To Support TSF's Mission
How To Advocate for TS
The first thing to evaluate is the mission behind the advocacy. Since TS affects 1 in every 2,000 female births, caring for women’s health and quality of life is a strong motivation for TSF and the TS community. If you agree with the mission, evaluate the following:
- How much time are you ready to commit?
- What is your skillset?
- What is the impact you can have on this cause?
When people collaborate with an objective and organize their advocacy as part of a mission, it is most effective. You can help by establishing relationships with elected officials, aiding them with enacting laws and policies to make TS a top national priority.
Types of Advocacy
Advocacy is an action that favors, recommends, argues, supports or defends, or pleads on behalf of others for a cause.
- When an individual or group supports a particular cause or policy with public officials, it is called legislative advocacy. Legislative advocacy includes federal, state, county, and municipal jurisdictions.
- Public health advocacy is creating means for awareness and resources for a health-related issue. Public health advocacy is a plan to connect with federal, state, county, and town governments for a health-related issue.
- Self-advocacy empowers individuals with TS and their families to know their rights, obtain resources, and, most importantly, possess the knowledge and support to self-advocate.
All three types of advocacy, with the support of both those within and outside of the TS community, are essential for the advancement of TS awareness.
Takeaways & Action Steps
- Being a volunteer is undertaking a service and being an advocate to supports a cause or mission.
- There are two types of volunteering: other-oriented and self-oriented.
- Helping others can bring you many physical health benefits, like reducing your risk of heart disease and death.
- There are many mental health benefits to helping others. Some include increasing your positive thinking and reducing your risk of dementia and depression.
- Helping others benefits your social health because it creates and builds new relationships.
- Created in 2008, TSF is a nonprofit founded by Laura Fasciano to help the TS community through promoting early diagnosis, appropriate medical care, and increased TS awareness.
- Volunteering is a great way to help TSF’s cause and the TS community.
- Volunteering isn’t the only way someone can help the TS community. They can also advocate for the cause, encouraging businesses and governments to join.
- They can also sign a petition, start a fundraiser, and other things that create a society where individuals with TS get diagnosed earlier and thus have a better quality of life.
- If you want to learn more about how to advocate for the TS community, click here.
- Knowing that you are positively impacting people’s lives is one of the best feelings you’ll ever know. Believe that you are capable of making a difference, go out there, and reach out to someone who needs you!
Written by Reyn Kenyon, TSF volunteer blog writer. Edited by Liz Donner, TSF volunteer blog editor, and Susan Herman, TSF volunteer lead blog editor.
© Turner Syndrome Foundation, 2022