Becoming part of your community

15 August 2022

Particularly for those of us who work long hours, weeks and nights, the thought of getting up and out there in your precious spare time can be daunting – or just plain tiring. Yet the benefits of taking an active and mindful part in your community can range from increasing motivation and accountability, to feeling more connected, and improving mental and physical health.

Certainly, becoming involved in your community is beneficial to being a productive member of society, but on top of that, we also act as ambassadors of our profession, showing the people with whom we interact that dentistry has a very human face, and we care about the society in which we live and work.

Serving and participating in community in meaningful ways creates a practice culture that team members and patients are proud to be part of, and when incorporated into practice values, can be powerful and engaging.

Top tips for getting out there

For busy colleagues, where do we start? While by no means an expert, I am happy to share some thoughts.

1. Find a cause that you are genuinely interested in and passionate about. Authenticity is important, and if there is a project or cause that you are interested in, it is a lot easier to start and remain engaged long term.

2. Have low expectations of reward. Being part of a community shouldn’t be transactional, and there should be little expectation of financial reward or anything else, except for the reward of being part of the experience itself.

3. Be realistic about the time commitment that you can offer. While there is a plethora of incredible volunteering opportunities, some will require a long or ongoing time commitment. If that is not possible for you at this moment, there are usually shorter-term or one-off projects you can be involved in.

4. Have fun! I credit the book The Power of Fun by Catherine Price with putting into words some wisdom

that has since resonated with me. As a fun-lovingperson, I initially had guilt about spending my free time ‘having fun’, but with time, I have come to learn that fun should not be infused with guilt. Balance is imperative, and having fun while getting things done is possible; in fact, to me, it is more than ideal. While we commonly think of fun as an indulgence, it should really be a priority. Instead of the idea it is frivolous, having fun is in fact the key to living a more fulfilling, happier life. With fun as a priority, we enjoy the process; if we are having fun, we will keep wanting to pursue what we are doing.

5. If undertaking a project or organising a fundraiser is not realistic at the moment, you can still support your community by buying local, donating to fundraisers, or sponsoring local events.

6. Collaborate. Local businesses usually appreciate a shout out, a recommendation or your continued custom, just as you would!

Ideas to get you started

– Dental volunteering groups and societies

– Local Buy Nothing group

– School fête

– Community garden

– Local council

– School mentorship program

– Environmental clean-up crews

– Museum and heritage volunteer opportunities

– Local sporting clubs

– Run a fundraiser for a cause you care about

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