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Research Study - Perceptions of Personal and Professional Benefit from Volunteering during Cruise Travel with Families who have Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities

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Principle Researcher: Dr. Rachel Potter, Mary Baldwin University


What and Why

There are any number of reasons why individuals engage in volunteer work.  This study investigates specifically how staff volunteers with Autism on the Seas perceive that they benefit from the experience. 


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The Corporation for National and Community Service (2007) notes that volunteers benefit in terms of physical and mental health, often indicating higher levels of life satisfaction, lower rates of depression, and longer life expectancy.  Forbes (2015) shared that volunteers feel that they have more personal time, develop new skills that are transferable to career opportunities and marketability, have better general health, build empathy, and strengthen interpersonal relationships.


Autism on the Seas, since its inception, has relied on volunteer staff to support its mission.  This study aims to determine if these volunteers find that the experience itself has contributed to their personal and professional growth, and if so, how. 

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Dr. Rachel Potter, a volunteer Group Leader with Autism on the Seas since 2014, is the principal investigator of this study.


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The study has been granted Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval by Mary Baldwin University (Protocol #1617-57).  Following the busy summer 2017 cruising season, a survey will be sent to all AotS staff who have served as a volunteer at least once.  Survey participants will then be recruited to participate in an interview as a second phase of the study.  This study is estimated to be complete and publishable by May 2018.



No funding is required for this study.



The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research



5 Surprising Benefits Of Volunteering