Why should students be involved in social work and volunteering? : Dr. Swati Popat Vats

When I was in school, we had a subject called – Social Service, as part of this we had to ensure that we did some social service and volunteer work in the community and we would also be graded on the same. We grumbled about it but now when I think about what it taught me, I cherish those experiences. It helped us develop life skills of empathy, caring, impulse control and resilience.

Throughout our education in school and university we are more focused on personal goals, whereas in our career we will need skills of empathy, collaboration, social change and understanding of policies. Social Work helps students learn about people, about issues that the world faces and how they can help and contribute. Social and volunteer work is that missing element in our education system that takes students from achieving only personal goals to integrating personal with social.

Keeping the NEP 2020 vision in mind of developing students ability to empathise, learn and contribute to social causes and create international minded citizens, integrating social and volunteer work in the curriculum helps in the following ways-

  • Improves Mental Health & Well-Being.
  • Students get an opportunity to Practice Social Good.
  • Helps them Build Community &  Expand their Network.
  • Gain Real-World Career Prep &  Experience.
  • Determine their Career Goals.
  • It also helps Bolster their Resume & Improve Job Prospects.
  • Also helps Refine Valuable Soft Skills.

But there are some students who are reluctant about volunteer and social work, it is important to understand the reasons:

1. Their academic timetable with tuitions, schools and classes leaves not time for social or volunteer work.

2. Many of them see social and volunteer work as a pass time activity that has no contribution to their personal or professional goals.

3. They avoid it due to social and emotional reasons. Many are shy and introvert and lack the social skills required for social work and others cannot take the emotional strain of dealing with situations of poverty, addiction, lack of resources and other aspects that are an integral part of working.

Today social work can also be taken up as a profession and it appeals to many youth who want to give back to society while earning their livelihood The profession offers youth a journey of achieving both personal and professional growth goals while helping others.  Today, the profession has come to flourish and offers more than just a career opportunity. It allows a deeper understanding of issues like poverty, health and climate change

Social Work focuses on helping people overcome difficult challenges in their life. These include poverty, addiction, unemployment, disability, abuse, mental illness, and many others.

Social Work also places a strong emphasis on social justice and equality. By engaging in social work and volunteer work students become problem solvers, they become part of the solution and not the problem and that is a paradigm shift that helps countries thrive because it is the youth that helps the economy and quality of life pulsate.

Social work and volunteer work sets the stage to develop valuable networks that have the potential to transform into long-term professional collaborations. Working towards a cause, without a visible financial pay-out, indicates commitment and passion, a very important tool to learn ‘impulse control’.

Volunteering experiences also render pre-career opportunities to students to find their niche or their forte.
Happiness is the key to success and social work and volunteering contribute the ‘happy chemicals’ in our brain as it boosts our self-confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction. It gives students the opportunity to do good for others and the community and this gives a natural sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride and identity.

Parents should ensure that their children Volunteer for social work and not wait for the school or college to make it compulsory…after all volunteering that is compulsory is an oxymoron!

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About the Guest Author:  Dr. Swati Popat Vats is an educator with over three decades of experience. She is President of Podar Education Network and Consultant for Cambridge Early Years Program but she spends a large chunk of her time and expertise as the President of Early Childhood Association and Association of Primary Education and Research, a role that has no salary but is about social and volunteer work to ensure that children across India have access to quality education and care.

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