Helping others from the heart
Matthew Murchie, Imperial College London
I have recently become quite involved with a charity here at university. I spend several hours a week at meetings, organising fund-raisers and publicising our events.
Some of my friends have been questioning me about why I devote so much of my time to a charity and what I have to gain from my work.
To me, such questions show that they have completely missed the point of joining a charity. Most people who work for charities don't do it for personal gain. There are far easier and more effective ways to earn money and experience.
No, most people join charities because they identify with a cause and want to contribute to its success. Knowing that you're helping someone can be its own reward.
The fact that so many people are baffled by this idea of helping others without personal gain indicates a worrying trend in society.
Fewer and fewer people are interested in working for the good of others. Rather, they prefer to do everything only for personal gain or benefit.
I may sound old-fashioned or even pretentious to insist on the importance of a civic spirit and certain social obligations. Yet the truth is that if you're concerned about people's wellbeing, you help not only others but also yourself.
There are many benefits that you can draw from charity work.
Most importantly, charitable work can have positive effects on your moral stature and character.
In addition, you can acquire many practical skills while working for a charitable organisation.
Firstly, working with team members to organise fund-raisers and other events is quite an experience.
You will need to have good communication, time-management and networking skills - not to mention heaps of patience!
Often it is difficult to get people excited about a charity, so working for one really helps you hone your public-speaking skills and powers of persuasion.
Meanwhile, you can also enhance your knowledge by being exposed to different cultures and ways of life.
Finally, many charities may have specific areas of expertise that we can benefit from.
For example, my charity helps find solutions to water shortages in Africa. That's an interesting and enlightening subject for an engineering student like me.
While it's understandable that many people want to benefit personally from their hard work, it often pays to think about others' wellbeing as well.