Article: “The Positive Impact of Volunteering” by Carlie Cattelona
Carlie Cattelona is a student at University of Massachusetts Amherst and is currently on exchange at East China Normal University in Shanghai. She is studying international business and slowly but surely learning Mandarin Chinese. In her spare time she is a language tutor and DJs at her local university radio station.
When I took on a volunteering job as a project coordinator for a community cleanup organization, I didn’t doubt that I would be contributing to the betterment of the people we were serving. After all, volunteering is a wonderful way to connect to the surrounding community and to show you the ways you can really make a difference in the world. The numbers don’t lie: This past year, volunteers (through an organization) in the US surpassed 64 million, and their hours of service exceeded 8.2 billion.
The organization I chose, United Saints Recovery Project, is a grass roots organization that interacts with community members directly, doing the work that needs to be done without any of administrative logistics that can often get in the way. As I spent my days doing physically demanding projects such as tearing down walls in a water-damaged living room, or cutting down overgrown grass in an abandoned lot, I was unaware of the ways that volunteering had begun to benefit me. As is often the case, you rarely consider how volunteering can impact you, and enrich your life.
For one, volunteering allows you the opportunity to meet new people, often like-minded, openhearted and happy to help out. In multiple studies, the sense of accomplishment gained through volunteer work has increased self-confidence. When leading building projects, I managed tasks that I had no previous experience or interest towards. I found myself with a newfound sense of purpose, and began to see myself as a more capable and well-rounded individual.
As I gained confidence in my newfound abilities, it became clear to me that volunteering was adding to my professional skillsets. Students don’t often associate the two; how can picking up trash in a park or removing drywall translate onto a resume? Volunteering positions can offer extensive training that span a variety of fields, from on-site volunteer work to more administrative and managerial tasks that translate well into a work environment. Just being apart of a project, having to work together with other people shapes your abilities to be apart of a team.
I started out as nothing more than an inexperienced volunteer with a willingness to help out. In just two short weeks university students were coming to me with building project questions, and to my surprise, I was able to answer them- correctly! The next time you have some free time, and you’re looking for something constructive to do, don’t discount volunteering. From making friends, to building your work experience, to feeling good about yourself, the ways that volunteering can benefit you are as numbered and varied as the opportunities for you to serve the community and make a difference.
Not sure how to get involved? Doing your research is important! Some organizations are more impactful than others. Sites such as Abroad Reviews and Go Overseas will give you an idea which international organizations are best for the community and best for you.