Dreams Don't Work Unless You Do

The Incredible Impact of Volunteering

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Volunteering every summer at Camp I Am Me is one of the highlights of my year. Camp I Am Me is the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance leadership program for children and teenagers who have experienced injuries from burns. I’ve cherished the last 23 years working as an occupational therapist with younger campers and on developing life skills for Counselors-In-Training. I wish I could create a new adjective that describes how grateful I am for the opportunity to volunteer my time and watch these kids grow and change.

The Beauty of volunteering is that it affords you the best of both worlds: you can effect positive change for those you are helping and for yourself. Here are some of the benefits of volunteering, as well as resources for you to get involved:

You Make a Difference By Volunteering
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself and to utilize your time for the greater good. It also allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can positively impact the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. That’s what it feels like for me to work with teens at Camp I Am Me to improve their communication skills, confidence, and approach to teamwork.

Volunteering Allows you to Support Causes You Believe In
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. For example, let your love for animals, teaching or healthcare create positive change in the world. When your actions are led from a place of passionate intention, volunteering is more fulfilling, and your impact will be that much bigger.

Volunteering Connects you to Others
Volunteering leaves a lasting impression. In my case, even after camp, I remain connected with my campers via social media, and we make plans to get together. The best part is that volunteering is a two-way street because it can benefit you as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.

Volunteering Makes You Happier
Helping others creates happiness. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were. Being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure, and since we are hard-wired to give to others, the more we give, the happier we feel.

Finding the Right Volunteering Opportunity
We all have different interests and passions, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all manner of volunteering. As a starting point, here is a list of the types of organizations in need of volunteers:

  • Community theatres, museums, and monuments
  • Libraries or senior centers
  • Homeless shelters
  • Service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs
  • Local animal shelters, rescue organizations, or wildlife centers
  • Youth organizations, sports teams, and after-school programs
  • Historical restorations, national parks, and conservation organizations
  • Places of worship such as churches or synagogues
  • Online databases such as those contained in the Resources section below

For more information, visit www.idealistvolunteering.org.

Where do you volunteer?

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