You know how rewarding it can be to serve your community. Maybe you’ve been on a service learning trip to a remote settlement in Tanzania, fell in love with the culture there and grew to love the place and its people. You’ve been bitten by the volunteerism bug, but your friends don’t get it. Why would you want to give your own time when you could be fine-tuning your essay-writing skills?
• Why would you want to sleep on a straw mat in Tanzania when your family is going on vacation to The Bahamas this summer, anyway?
• Why spend your vacation working in a community garden?
• Why spend weekends at a community center, tutoring underprivileged kids?
Your friends don’t quite get it – but you’ve been there, and you’ve seen the smiles on the faces of people you’ve helped. Maybe you’ve experienced cultures on the other side of the world that gave you a totally new perspective on life. You can understand their initial hesitancy to dig in because you were there before too. So the question is how do you get your friends involved in volunteering? Here are a few tips to help you get started.
For the Intellectuals
If your friends would rather polish their college admissions applications, crunch numbers to solve an unsolvable algebra problem, or fine-tune their essay-writing skills, here’s the card to play: Show them how service trips and volunteerism can help their future careers.
College admissions representatives look at more than essays and high grades when considering students for admission into competitive programs. Given two students with 4.0 GPAs, the student with volunteer experience has the advantage.
Getting involved in service opportunities now can set your friends up for a rewarding future, because their service experience will precede even their college education. This will look good on resumes for years to come—and they might find themselves bitten by the volunteerism bug, giving their time and abilities for more than just the extrinsic rewards.
For the Adventurers
Maybe your friends would rather be shooting hoops, cross-country skiing, running a marathon or hiking the Appalachian Trail. If they’re putting off volunteerism for these activities, maybe you should introduce them to overseas service learning trips.
That straw mat in Tanzania might not be the first aspect of service learning you want to mention—but to those with a knack for athletics and a curiosity about exploring the world around them, a trip to help build homes in hurricane-ravaged Dominican Republic or to plant sustainable field crops in South America might be just the impetus they need to get out of their comfort zones and stretch themselves in new ways.
Service learning abroad might be the most intense type of adventure available, no matter what your friends’ interests are. Show them photos of beautiful, off-the-beaten-path destinations and make plans to go together this summer.
For the Homebodies
If your friends are more interested in sitting around reading Greek epics, playing video games or surfing the Internet, chances are good it’s just been too long since they tasted sunshine and service. Volunteer to take your friends with you on your own volunteer project in the community—try to let them see the most rewarding aspects of the volunteerism you love.
No matter what type of friends you have or their interests, you have one thing in common: you’re friends! Talk to them. Tell them what got you interested in service and why it’s worth your while to make time to stay involved. Chances are good they’ll listen.