The Impact of Volunteering on a Young Person’s Life


Date of Publication: March 2022
Authors: Puck Algera, Ph.D
Published by: Te Hunga Tuao (SVA) 

This research offers a significant contribution to the definition, understanding and development of secondary school volunteering in both the New Zealand and global context. It identifies the motivations, benefits, and barriers to participation in the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) Service Award program, and suggests actions that could be applied to improve outcomes, increase opportunities and support for participation for those who most need it  

This study involved mixed methods, combining both qualitative (interviews, focus groups) and quantitative (surveys) approaches. There were four phases to the researchThe main findings are set out below.   

  1. Altruistic motivations like ‘helping others’ and ‘giving back to community’ were mentioned by more participants than self-focused motivations like ‘developing skills’ or ‘growing my network’. 
  2. Volunteering positively impacted the students’ lives. For example, it helps students develop a variety of valuable practical skills like communication, social, and leadership skills. It enhances confidence and self-efficacy, increases work readiness, and informs future career choices. It strengthens a sense of belonging at school and deepens connection with the local community. 
  3. The SVA Service Award programme is, in many ways, inclusive. It appeals to a wide range of students: students from various ages, a variety of backgrounds, and different decile schools. (In New Zealand, schools are grouped into 10 deciles, according to the proportion of students from low socio-economic communities.)  
  4. However, certain students face barriers to participation and not all schools have the resources to support the programme. 
  5. Related to the above, there needs to be a leveling of the playing field.  
  6. Deepening impact through reflection. For example, critical analysis of the social issues faced during volunteering. 
  7. Critical reflection. For example, the problematic nature of the ‘saviour complex’. 
  8. The author also gives practical pathways to improvement of the SVA. For example, SVA should make more information available on what the SVA is, its purpose, and details of the programme. The findings also provide a basis for SVA’s impact reporting and future strategic focus. 

The full report is available from the Community Research website.