Today’s addition to the list is something that is near and dear to my heart: volunteering.
Let’s start out with this. Raise your hand if you’ve ever volunteered somewhere. Ok, now raise your hand if you’ve ever volunteered somewhere because you wanted to, not because you had to for class or for extra credit. And no, volunteering to take the attendance to the office in middle school doesn’t count. We all know that was a coveted job that got you out of class for 5 minutes, or longer if you played your cards right. So now, raise your hand if you’ve volunteered in the last 10 years? The last 5? How about the last year? I can almost see the dwindling hands in the air and hear the excuses brimming on mouths across the nation (nations? How far does this reach?).
Now don’t get me wrong, i’m not accusing you of not caring. You’re busy, I get that. We don’t all have the spare time to go to a different state for a week to clean out moldy basements whenever we feel like it. But, for the most part, I bet you have the spare time to spend a few hours one night a week volunteering at your local food bank or community blood center. Come on, don’t lie! You know that episode of Scandal can wait.
What i’m trying to get at here is that everyone should go volunteer at least once! There are countless reasons why volunteering is an amazing thing to do with your time, but for this post i’ve listed my top 5.
Top 5 Reasons Why Volunteering Kicks Ass:
1.) You meet new people with similar interests.
Maybe you really like animals and want to go volunteer at a local animal shelter! I did that when I was younger and it was a fantastic time.
‘You mean you want me to sit in this room and play with kittens for an hour? Am I on Punked? Where’s Ashton!?’
I’m sure now that i’m older I would have to do more grown up things like clean out cages before being allowed some kitty cuddle time, but still… worth it. The best part about you going to an animal shelter, for example, and volunteering is you’re going to meet all kinds of awesome people who also love animals and puppy kisses. Maybe you’ll even meet a cute guy whom you can cuddle with while also cuddling puppies, and that is never a bad thing. Although if you do find said guy (who we already know is awesome because he is volunteering, but maybe he also has some tattoos and knows how to cook and drinks beer with me… ahem.. sorry) if you do find aforementioned guy (or gal!), make sure to invite me to the wedding! And find out if he has a brother, yeah?
Even if you don’t find a handsome man in a rom com like scenario cute enough to star Katherine Heigl, you will still meet some awesome people! For example, while recently volunteering up in Detroit I met some amazing people. One of whom I’ll be spending 7 weeks with in Alaska this coming summer! Having people around who share your common interests is never a bad thing!
2.) It looks fantastic on a resume.
I may not be an expert, and clearly there are other things on a resume that are more important, but if I were looking to hire someone I would be very interested in hiring someone who volunteers in their spare time. Who else would have more passion, more drive, more willingness to work than someone who spends their free time in service to others and to their community. Call me crazy, but I can’t see that being viewed as a bad thing.
3.) You get to do things you normally wouldn’t in ‘real life’.
Ever wanted to live in another country for free? How about learning how to use power tools while singing T-Swift at the top of your lungs? (That one might be a bit of a targeted audience, but I thought it was pretty fun.) How about spend time with someone from another country and learn all about their home and culture? You can do easily do all of those things when volunteering.
Find a volunteering organization and donate your summer vacation helping develop a community in a country or state that needs it. There are many organizations out there like International Student Volunteers or Cross-Cultural Solutions who will take you on a fantastic adventure abroad where you’ll spend half your time volunteering and half your time exploring. These are great options, but they do cost a considerable amount of money. There are, however, organizations that don’t cost money (aside from your transportation there), but offer you a great volunteering experience. Organizations such as my personal favorite, All Hands Volunteers.
Or if you don’t have that much time to donate, find a local literacy program in your area. Trust me if Dayton, Ohio has one yours probably does too. Project Read in Dayton is one such organization that matches volunteers up with both local youth and adults and new immigrants and refugees in the area to help improve on or learn English. All I had to do was attend one day class and i’m waiting to be matched with a student as we speak! What a great way to learn about someone else’s culture, and share your own as well!
Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out
Shel Silverstein…. Anyone? No?… okay.
4.) You gain valuable life and job experience.
This one kinda goes hand in hand with #2, but it also has value on it’s own as well. Not only did I meet some awesome people while volunteering in Detroit, I also found a field of work that I truly enjoy. A field that I had never quite considered before, but because I volunteered it opened my mind up to, and pardon the overused cliche, an entire new world of possibilities. Now i’m also taking classes at my local chapter of the Red Cross and after one more class next week, i’ll be able to begin being on call for the Disaster Action Team (DAT) for the Dayton Area. Not only is this a great way to give back to a community that I love, but I’m also gaining skills and experience that will be extremely beneficial when I continue pursuing this type of work. Because if i’ve learned nothing else from 2 years of soul crushing job searching it’s that you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job (or tons of money and free time). It’s like a catch-22 from hell.
5.) It feels awesome.
This one should probably be pretty much a give in.You are helping others so why wouldn’t you feel good? One could also say that people volunteer simply because it’s the right thing to do. The first house I ever worked on in Detroit was owned by this sweet little old lady who insisted on hugging all of us when we were done even though we were still wearing our bleach stained coveralls. Another time a man in camo overalls almost broke down in tears because he was so grateful to us for helping him fix up his house. It is times like those that I realize the power of what you can do by just volunteering your time to help others.
So i’ve mentioned a few times that I spent time volunteering in Detroit. Let me elaborate. I decided back in November that because I had some spare time on my hands that I would go up to Detroit to volunteer with an organization called All Hands Volunteers. The organization had been previously recommended to me by a friend who volunteered with the organization in the Philippines. All Hands is a volunteer based disaster relief organization that works both domestically and abroad. They responded to the August 2014 flooding that happened in Detroit and were (and still are) working to help pick up the pieces. A team would go into houses and gut them and take away all the moldy furniture and wood etc, then another team would come in and sanitize everything to stop the mold from coming back. I took a good ol’ Greyhound bus up to Detroit and made myself comfortable in the old monastery they were using as a base.
I have to say that nothing I expected came to pass during my time with All Hands Project Detroit, and it was everything I could have wanted it to be and more. Just one example, I expected to go to bed early that first night I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed so that I would be fresh as a daisy for my first day! Nope. As I would soon learn the term ‘work hard, play hard’ never had a better model than with the volunteers on project. What started with a few drinks at a local dive bar turned into a late night and a very early morning. But I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. It was a blast.
I’m sure that people think i’m crazy when I say that I truly enjoyed crawling around in moldy basements, being covered in bleach and spiderwebs and lord knows what else and using community bathrooms with people I don’t know. But to be honest, not only did I enjoy it, but I went back to Detroit twice more after my first stint. It was fun, rewarding and the best part for me was that I realized what I wanted to do with my life. Sounds kinda dramatic, I know, but it’s true. I’ve always wanted to work internationally, that is pretty obvious from this blog, but i’ve also always wanted to help people. From what i’ve learned in the past two years i’ve been out of college is that the non-profit world, especially if you want to work in the field, is very hard to get into. My time volunteering with All Hands in Detroit not only opened up my mind to all new possibilities, but it also helped me narrow down my options. Now I have a much more achievable goal in mind, and i’m working my way towards it. All that because I was too bored to stay at home and spend another day watching Archer and scrap booking. (Not that that isn’t an awesome way to spend one’s time.)
I’ve been volunteering for a long time… a night sorting presents for those less fortunate, a day volunteering at a Red Cross Booth, a week spent fixing homes in Detroit… there are countless reasons and benefits to volunteering. I could go on for days, but I would probably get fired from work and you would never want to read my blog again. I’m not saying this to make it seem like i’m an amazing person or anything, although I am pretty good at Foosball and I make kick ass ramen… just saying, i’m just trying to impress upon you that it’s awesome to give back.
I’ve been given so much in my life; I’ve never truly wanted for anything. I volunteer because I feel like It’s my turn to give back to others so that they can have a better, happier life.
Until next time, never forget:
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring.