Have you ever wondered why you should volunteer? Or perhaps, wonder what kind of impact “little old you” can have on a person and on a community? The answer is: plenty. And those impacts can be felt both globally and locally. In short, by volunteering, you are helping to build prosperous and sustainable communities at home and abroad.
As an international volunteer, there are many impacts that you can and will have on a community. The immediate short term effects come from the skills you contribute. For example, when I volunteered in a Guyanese village, I taught in the high school and provided remedial math and English classes. My short term impact, therefore, was providing education that otherwise would not have existed that semester.
As for the long term effects, they have the possibility to be far reaching. Your work can have a domino effect in someone’s life – you can help someone develop the tools they need to improve their daily life and that of their family. In doing that, you are enabling them to not only increase their monetary intake but also their contribution to local society because they are better skilled citizens. More capable citizens enable a community to provide improved services and be more reflective of the community’s needs. A community that is better at responding to the needs of its citizens generally leads to a populace being healthier and more educated, law-abiding, innovative, and hopeful – all of which are important to having a prosperous and sustainable community. But it starts with you sharing your skills with those who, through the randomness of life, were unable to have access to those skills any other way.
Volunteering does not only have a beneficial impact on communities in the Global South – it has an impact in your local community as well. The act of volunteering and giving of yourself has a positive impact on your sense of well-being and increases your feeling of engagement in the world around you. As such, it enriches your sense of purpose in life. In inspiring others, you inspire yourself. You develop an appreciation for others and your understanding of how a community functions and how different ways of thinking can mean the difference between being stagnant and achieving growth. Volunteering also develops your repertoire of skills that makes you attractive to those hiring for both international volunteer work and paid work at home. That range of skills you develop while a volunteer enables you to do your part in making your community both sustainable and prosperous.
Some people think that they have nothing to offer to a volunteer organization, but you’d be surprised at the impact you can have. In the Guyanese village in which I volunteered, some of the boys asked the male volunteers to play a game of soccer. Being a soccer player, I invited myself into to the game, much to the boys’ surprise. Over the next few weeks, we played a number of times, even at school. Eventually, the girls I was teaching wanted to play as well! So just by simple skills such as a talent for kicking a ball and a willingness to put yourself out there, you can inspire others to new thoughts and to change. Encouraging flexibility in attitudes opens up vast possibilities for a community. Volunteering with an organization at home has also allowed me to contribute to making my community a successful one. For example, just by supporting new immigrants and teaching English, I am part of what equips them with the tools to be productive members of their new society which means our community as a whole will prosper.
- Kendra Seignoret, Youth Ambassador, Guyana 2012