The health benefits of volunteering are well-documented, and include reduced stress and an increased feeling of self-worth. It is no wonder that for many people with chronic conditions, volunteering can even help maintain or improve one's physical health.
Hand in Hand for RA (www. handinhandforRA.com) is a national awareness campaign that encourages people with the painful chronic joint-disease rheumatoid arthritis to learn about the benefits of volunteering and share their own inspirational stories.
"Volunteering is a huge part of my life that has really helped me through some tough times dealing with a chronic disease," says Seth Ginsberg, cofounder and president of grass-roots arthritis group Creaky Joints, a sponsor of the campaign. "Things as simple as getting involved with senior citizens in your local community — reading to them, driving them to the grocery store and even just talking with them — all help keep your mind off your disease."
When Debbie McGrady, a 55-year-old mother of two and part-time bank teller, was diagnosed with RA, she decided she wasn't going to allow the disease to take over her life.
"Helping others and giving back to the community has assisted me in keeping the focus on my life and not on my disease," says McGrady.
Volunteering is also a way to connect with others, and offers people living with RA an opportunity to talk about their disease and communicate with people going through the same things.
To take advantage of what your community may offer or to find ideas, try visiting your local recreation center, Jewish Community Center or town hall. These places often post local activities and list where volunteers are needed.