Volunteering has recently become a focal point in my life. I started volunteering when I was in high school—albeit reluctantly at first. My high school prided themselves as a “service school” meaning they were highly active in the community and required that the students contribute. Now, being the homebody I was, requiring me to go out and obtain 40 hours of community service within the school year felt incredibly overwhelming. But, I didn’t have much choice because if I ignored the 40-hour requirement I wouldn’t pass freshman year. I didn’t see the point of giving to the community because I believed it never gave to me. But very soon into my first session of giving selflessly, I realized that it wasn’t an inconvenience to do good for others.
My First Volunteer Work Experience
One of the first activities I did was volunteer at a retirement community. My school took time out of Friday class periods on occasion to send my grade level to retirement homes around the town. The one I specifically visited was conveniently up the road. When I arrived I was incredibly intimidated. I didn’t know what to expect and to top it off, it smelled weird. But very soon after my arrival, we were shuffled off to where the elders were waiting and the day’s purpose was revealed. Our task was very simple: arts and crafts and a game or two of bingo. I didn’t understand that spending quality time with someone was considered volunteering. Talking to those men and women and hearing their stories didn’t feel like volunteer work, but rather something I would do with my own grandparents. I went there a few more times that school year to do similar activities, especially around holidays.
Continuing My Volunteer Work
After my high school career ended I continued to give my time to the community. My first winter break home from college, between working 2 jobs, I volunteered for a program called Meals on Wheels. I took my own vehicle and, with another girl in tow, drove a specific route around my town to deliver meals to the elderly and underprivileged. To this day, I wonder how offering someone food is considered volunteering. Everyone deserves a meal, even if they aren’t capable of making one or going out to the grocery store to buy it themselves.
Even during the school year I found time on the weekends to do something good. I helped run a “Pioneer Prom” which is where girls have a chance to find hand-me-down dresses that they couldn’t otherwise afford to wear to prom. And during my Spring Break I ventured to Puerto Rico with a group of people to volunteer at a sustainable forestation project located in the middle of the rainforest. We did hard, manual labor and learned about the economy and massive waste of trees. It was mesmerizing to be without technology for a week—to live with only the bare essentials such as living in concrete, handmade rooms and drinking rain water. Everything I did had to be conservative. No food waste, brief showers and using a bucket to relieve myself. We did a months’ worth of tearing down and
rebuilding in only a week, thus sparing the sustainability project from some headache and worry. Helping this project build its base and organize material didn’t feel like a daunting task. I was making life a little easier for someone striving to create a renewable Earth. Doing this made me feel as if I were giving back to nature and helping it prosper.
I question why what I do for the community is considered volunteering. As I continued to donate my time, I defined more of my volunteer work as helping someone obtain a human right: to be loved, fed and promised a world that will last generations and not be destroyed. It wasn’t until my later teen years that I realized that my time spent doing nothing isn’t as precious as someone else’s right to live soundly. Not to mention giving back to the community gave me the chance to learn and meet wonderful people. I learned to be less afraid of putting myself out there to offer a hand to those that may be hesitant to ask. I also met people who showed me different perspectives about the world we live in. I saw how to look at my life and others from different angles to better empathize with them. It’s hard for me to say that volunteering is bothersome now because of how much I grew from doing it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it, so I urge you to step outside your comfort zone and experience the greatness of volunteering.