The Benefits of Volunteering
In my freshman year of high school I moved from upstate New York to Long Island. It was a completely different area and quite an adjustment. I did manage to make some friends at the beginning of the year, but no one I was super close to, and I didn’t have any clubs or activities to keep me busy. Honestly, I was kind of lonely and bored.
By chance I ended up going to a volunteer fair at the local library, and I found an organization for teenagers doing environmental work. All I knew was that I liked being outside and the things they were doing looked interesting, so I signed up. And my experience volunteering with them ended up completely changing the course of my life. We did a lot of invasive species removals, worked with native plants, planted a vegetable garden, did trail work, and some community education. A lot of this has transferred to my work as a wetland restoration technician at Rosewood Nature Study Area. I honestly don’t think I would have gone on to study environmental management if it wasn’t for my experience with this group. I didn’t even know that was an option! Volunteering as a teenager gave me a lot of experience in the field that I am still grateful for, and helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life and what was important to me. I learned a lot about myself through this group.
We’ve all heard that volunteering can look good on your resume, and it does. It’s a good way to gain experience and learn new things. But almost more importantly, I made friends. I met two friends that I am still close to while pulling invasive plants. And I got to work with lots of amazing people on different projects. It was a big part of my social life in high school, and got me out of my shell. Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and be a part of the
I think everyone can agree that there is a lot to be frustrated about in the world. It’s very easy to see only the problems, and feel hopeless about everything. Pessimism even seems to be normalized at times. And I get it! I get bogged down with all the problems I see too, it’s easy to feel helpless. But there are people who care and there are always people working on solutions. And I would rather be a part of that, even if it’s in a small way. Volunteering is a way to make a difference in the world and be involved in whatever it is you are passionate about. It helps me to not feel so helpless, and fights against pessimism.
I’ve been talking about all these benefits of volunteering, you may be asking how you can get involved. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to volunteer your time. Do you have any hobbies or skills? Chances are you can use those to help others. During the pandemic many people sewed cloth masks for medical professionals. If you are bilingual, translation work can be valuable for non-profits. You can write letters to encourage people to vote. If you are interested in science or nature there are many community science opportunities. You can even volunteer from home, and offer as much or as little time as you want.
I hope this has encouraged you to get out into your community and volunteer whatever time you can. Along with the personal benefits it is a way of making the world a better place, even if it seems small.