Community is a label given to a group of people with something in common, whether it is a shared location, agenda or values. In fact, you may be a member of many different types of communities at any one time.
We have a choice whether we are active members of these communities or if we prefer being observers, by standers in this collective. Being an active member of those communities relies on a level of involvement or action. There are those types of people that we describe as “good community people”, there are those that speak out when their community is treated negatively but don’t actively partake in action. There are those people that have no interest in being part of any community. Interestingly, this in itself means you are part of a community.
Why do we feel a sense of community? Human beings typically rely on social interaction to derive a sense of belonging, we as a species thrive through connection and something in common with another. We like to feel a sense that we are not alone. It helps us feel supported, “normal” and active participants in our own lives.
There are many benefits to feeling this sense of belonging, this connection to others similar to ourselves. We build a support network, joining others with a shared passion or position on a particular social theme. Being connected to others creates friendships, provides opportunity for our own gains and in many cases leads to a positive emotional response on some level.
How often have you felt pride, respect or admiration when seeing a group of people working together to achieve something positive? This ranges from legal class actions righting a wrong, standing up for what’s fair to speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. There is a sense of justice, achievement and purpose. Being part of something bigger than ourselves provides a personal growth experience that is hard to put a value on.
Being a member of a group or community working towards a shared goal to achieve a positive outcome is one of the most uplifting and rewarding experiences of our lives… and often costs us nothing but our time and effort.
From a professional perspective, engaging in community activity helps you build a career profile that most employers are keen to have join their team. You show yourself to be a valued member of a community and employers want this type of personality in their work force. You can build networks that lead to further job opportunities. How many times do we take the recommendation of someone we trust? We find mechanics, hairdressers, builders in this manner all the time. It works in the same way for community services. You start participating in your local community, you hear that a local centre needs volunteers, this leads to professional networking, reputation building and the next time a paid employment opportunity presents itself you have already laid a solid base as to who you are and established a rapport with the decision makers.
Consider the communities that you may be part of – a sporting group, a work team, a family member, a charity organisation, or a club. Why are you part of that community? What do you feel when you are connected to this group? There are so many ways in which we can create this positive feeling, and it can start from the smallest of actions.
Check out the following ideas for ways to help your community in the midst of your everyday activities.
- Shop with locally owned businesses, saving time and money. Many locally owned businesses offer services and products that you need regularly, why travel to get what you need when you have many of these business at your doorstep. It keeps the local community thriving by keeping the money within, supporting growth an opportunity.
- Attend a local festival or other event. Many have free admission and activities. Many festivals are actually fundraisers for non-profit organisations and you may be surprised at how much you learn about who and what is in your local area.
- Take left over dinner to an elderly neighbour. If you have a family of four, cook enough dinner for five one night and deliver a plate to the widow next door. Your delivery helps you to get to know your neighbours better, police promote knowing your neighbours as the best way to fight neighbourhood crime. How nice to have that feeling of making someone else feel valued.
- Look for opportunities to give in your community. Many schools collect items, such as like canned foods, toys and clothing for less fortunate families. Donating loose change may not necessarily negatively impact your budget, but knowing that you have just helped someone achieve their dream is priceless.
- Get involved as a volunteer. There are plenty of opportunities out there if you look out for them. Most states in Australia have websites that list all the volunteer opportunities available in your local area and wider afield. Consider www.volunteer.com.au for Australia wide opportunities, you can select the areas that you would be interested in and search for that common interest that provides the feel good moments.
- Our Diploma of Community Services and Diploma of Mental Health Online have been designed to give you the right skills and knowledge to work with people experiencing mental and psychological issues, and assist them in seeking solutions to a range of problems.
Whether you are looking for a way in to the Community Services sector or just feeling the urge to connect with likeminded people, taking some steps towards action is always beneficial. Tune it to the type of community member you are and make a decision on what level of action you might be willing to take. You may just be surprised at how it makes you feel.