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The Benefits of Community Service in Education

by David Boardman, Senior School Principal

New Zealand is proud of its culture of community service and giving, supporting those who need it and giving time to help groups and organisations in and around communities throughout the country.  In the 2013 World Giving Index, New Zealand came 2nd equal with Canada and Myanmar for overall giving and 8th equal for giving time. This is also trending upwards, driven by people in the 15-24year age bracket. Globally this group went from being the least likely to volunteer in 2008 to the second most likely in 2012.  

So, what has brought about this paradigm shift?  In New Zealand, schools are a driver of this change, with most now clearly identifying both the need and benefits to students and the community of such action.

Engaging in community service provides students with the opportunity to become active members of their community and has a lasting, positive impact on society at large. Community service in New Zealand schools has long been seen to assist students in acquiring life skills and knowledge, as well as provide a service to those who need it most. There are not only benefits to the community, but also the individuals undertaking the service.

Psychological benefits - Volunteering increases overall life satisfaction and helps you feel good about yourself because you are helping others. It can also help to decreases stress and ease depression.

Social benefits - Volunteering engages students with the community, creates special bonds with the population being served, and increases social awareness and responsibility.

Cognitive benefits - Volunteering helps students enhance their personal knowledge, grow from new experiences, and develop better interpersonal communication skills.

Students who get involved in community service, not only help others — they expand their worldview, develop empathy and leadership skills, and realise how their actions can have a positive impact. They also return to the classroom realising how what they’re learning applies to the real world, which reinvigorates their passion for learning. While completing community service projects, students develop real-world skills, that are not intrinsically linked to knowledge and that will help them succeed beyond school, into university and/or the workplace.

Employers are very supportive of volunteering, seeing the benefits that it brings and those skills which are then easily moved into their working lives. Most importantly, students learn that the work they do can make a real impact in the world.  I am proud to be part of a school and a system that not only sees the value of community service but is actively promoting and normalising it within the day to day lives of students and the culture of education.