“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Throughout the United States, many people are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day. The holiday is set to promote equal rights for all Americans and is celebrated in different ways. My experience with MLK Day for the past few years has been filled with volunteer opportunities. My school focuses on a day to serve others. This morning we got up early and went to a local food bank to help package kits of food for children and hygiene kits for adults.
During the service activity, I couldn’t help but look around at the other students. They were giving up a part of their holiday to help others. The question that then filled my mind was this—can this experience volunteering benefit them in any way?
For this article, I want to share some of my ideas based off of personal experiences. There is data to back it all up, but I will let you do that research. My education in nonprofit management has given me ample opportunities to volunteer and lend my skills to organizations in need. You should be doing the same.
Increase Happiness and Show That You Care
While volunteering it is easy to forget about your own problems and think about others. It can be a major stress reliever and often while I am serving, I come up with some of my best ideas (this article for instance). Volunteering is also an indicator of selflessness and shows that you care for the well-being of others. Michael Jackson said it best, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”
Learn While Doing
Many service activities can provide on-the-job experience that can benefit your career. If you are really concerned with this, try looking for organizations that are related to your job path or that offer positions that would help you. For example, I have spent many volunteer hours developing social media strategies or writing blog articles for local nonprofits. I have grown a lot through these experiences, but also have been able to help several organizations.
This goes without saying, but through volunteering you can meet some of the best people. The data also shows that a higher percentage of people that volunteer are educated and potentially wealthier. These connections can be extremely helpful and it allows these people to see you in your best light—helping others.
Expand Your Horizons
As an international student living in a “foreign” country, I have come to appreciate the importance of meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. While volunteering, you get to do just that. You can get a glimpse into the life of the someone else. There are also many volunteer programs that can take you abroad if that appeals to you.
No matter how or where you volunteer, these selfless opportunities to help other people will benefit you. Make it a priority and see where it takes you.