Life after Work: Volunteering for Good

Before I moved to Ireland, I was a happy library assistant, as books have always played a big part in my life, and still do. Although I knew working in a public library would never make me as wealthy as Donald Trump or Bill Gates, mentally and emotionally, I felt rich. After relocating to Ireland I worked in the private sector, but I left each eight-hour shift feeling unsatisfied. That feeling was enhanced after my multiple sclerosis diagnosis, as fatigue added a lot of strain to each day.

When Ireland entered a severe recession eight years ago, the most vulnerable communities were hit hardest by cuts in welfare, medical and disability services. I realized then that the disability community needed my help more than ever.

Although my volunteering often happens from my laptop at home, this doesn’t make it any less rewarding. In fact, my advocacy work serves as a major source of mental and emotional satisfaction. Research shows that the benefits of volunteering are legion. People who volunteer experience:

• Lower levels of depression

• Increased life satisfaction and well-being

• Increased connectedness with others and enhanced social skills

• Increased self-confidence and sense of purpose

Further research has shown that volunteering may have physical benefits as well, such as reduced stress and pain. Also, people who volunteer may become better at managing their own illness and as it can strengthen immune systems. What’s not to love?

Volunteering has brought me a large, new circle of friends across the globe, new interests and career opportunities, and a multitude of activities I can still do, despite multiple sclerosis fatigue and chronic pain. MS Ireland means so much to me. Not only does the group of MS Ireland bloggers hold a big place in my heart, but the organization’s leader and staff often leave me with my jaw hanging on the floor out of utter amazement. They work long hours, and are always in high spirits and are very welcoming to each and every individual they meet.

Strangely enough, when volunteering, I often forget I have MS myself. Wanting the best for others feels like a purpose, something I simply feel I’m meant to do.

And like Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

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Birgit Bauer
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Birgit Bauer
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