It’s no secret that giving your time and energy in a sustainable, ethical way benefits the people/animals/group/cause you set out to help. The positives don’t end there, however! The act of performing service has a ripple effect, impacting the lives and outlooks of many–including the volunteer!
Volunteering can be a catalyst for….
Starting a Movement
Turns out, helping others is contagious! More than ever before, young people are giving their time to a cause, and it is catching. When your family and friends see you giving your time, they are more likely to be inspired to volunteer and join the movement. Many high schools have a chapter of Key Club International, Recycle Club, or other community service group. This is a great place to start and one of the best ways to connect with like-minded people in your community. (Besides, it’s more fun to volunteer together!)
Volunteering can be a great way to test the waters before committing to a college major or career path. You might love animals and consider studying veterinary medicine, but spend time at an animal shelter and realize that you actually enjoy the human interactions more. Spend three weeks in Tanzania and discover (or nourish) your interest in classroom teaching. Through dedicating your time and learning in a new environment, you’re giving back but also discovering your likes and dislikes and teasing out your strengths and passions. In fact, 80% of GLA alumni say that their service-learning experience influenced their future career or field of study.
Afraid you don’t have the right skills? You don’t have to be a professional to make a big impact! Most volunteer organizations have many types of opportunities, including entry-level physical projects and simple data entry.
Whether you give your time halfway across the world or just around the corner, putting yourself in a new environment and out of your normal day-to-day can have a huge impact on the way you see the world. You know the saying “change begins at the end of your comfort zone”? It’s true! Volunteering can be a great way to put yourself out there and come together in solidarity with people you may never get to interact with otherwise.
This is an added perk for those who bring their passions for community service abroad! Learn about customs, belief systems, and experiences that would otherwise be foreign to you as you connect through a shared objective–working in conjunction with the local community is the key to sustainable, ethical projects and successful cultural exchange. As you work and spend time in your host community, you’ll learn through experience–share a meal at the project site, meet with locals in the community, and learn to cook, dance, sing like the locals do. It is also an opportunity to share the things that you love about your culture with your hosts! Each new relationship, activity, and conversation adds another piece to the puzzle that is the complex, diverse world in which we live and is a key component of becoming a well-rounded, global citizen.