Enrich your life and your community

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By Lupe Arambula Camargo

Lupe-Carmago-HeadshotHaving grown up in the Valley and attended Saint Mary’s High School, I look back and reflect on the influence and inspiration I received from the Franciscan Fathers who taught there and had a strong presence on campus. We learned that living a life that included service to others was just what you did. I knew I was helping to build a stronger community and helping those who needed the support of others. What I did not expect were the numerous benefits volunteering would give back to me in the years to come.

When someone decides to give of their personal time, it is generally with the hope of improving the lives of others. What studies about volunteering have shown, however, are the numerous physical and emotional benefits one receives in return. 

Four years ago, I joined the board of the Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council. My hope was to use my professional skills to impact the girls in our community. While I am able to do that, what I’ve come to appreciate are the rewards I’ve received in return. These include feeling more connected to my community, feeling a strong sense of purpose with the work being done, building friendships, and gaining new skills outside the realm of my professional life.

Simultaneously, I served as a Girl Scout troop leader for my daughter. What a great opportunity it has been to be a coach, sales manager (during cookie season) and an overall mentor for the girls. And, just as the Franciscans taught me that our life needs to include service to others, my daughter has learned that same valuable lesson through Girl Scouting. In the years to come, when she sits on a community board, my hope is that she will also enjoy the rewards of giving.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, learning to volunteer at a young age helps develop self-esteem, self-confidence and new friendships, which can be a buffer against the stresses of life. The study also shows that adult females who had been Girl Scouts showed a higher probability of positive life outcomes than those who had not. These outcomes included higher educational achievement, greater self-esteem and deeper levels of engagement with their community.

Volunteering as an older adult also has many rewards. As a financial planner, I strongly encourage clients preparing to retire to consider some kind of volunteer work. As our social roles change, a devastating shift in one’s sense of purpose can occur. Volunteer activities can help to build or strengthen social ties to prevent a sense of isolation. And helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust.

Over the past two decades, a growing number of studies show the health benefits of volunteering. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, those who give of their time are less likely to suffer from illness later in life. These benefits go beyond what can be received through medical care. The United States Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that states with higher volunteer rates also have lower rates of mortality and incidences of heart disease. 

There are so many good reasons to volunteer no matter your age. Thomas H. Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University said, “Civic engagement and volunteering is the new hybrid health club for the 21st century that’s free to join.” So, as you ponder those intentions for 2013 to eat well and exercise, also consider the numerous benefits you gain from giving your time.

However your inspiration began, be it a Franciscan Father or your Girl Scout experience, you can continue to take care of yourself by caring for others.

Lupe Arambula Camargo is an investment advisor with Perspective Financial Services, LLC. She currently serves on the boards of the Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council and the Friends of the Tempe Public Library.

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