The 40 hours of community service required for high school graduation overwhelmed me as a freshman, but when I think about it now, 40 hours is barely anything. Forty hours is only 10 hours of service each school year, which is a little less than 12 minutes a week. After accomplishing my 40 hours, I did not stop there. I continued volunteering because I was able to help out a cause that I genuinely cared about.
First off, why should you help out? They don’t pay you, it takes up your time, and in the long run, it may seem like a waste of time. These are common excuses for not volunteering. Truth is, you should volunteer because without volunteers, non-profit and charitable organizations could not reach all of the people in need or provide high quality service. In addition, you should volunteer because it is good for you. You can better appreciate what you have and enjoy the fact that you have positively impacted someone else’s life.
Okay, so now it’s time to pick where to volunteer. Last year, there were about 35,000 non-profit organizations in the state of Washington alone. Narrow the list of organizations down to what you are interested in/what you could enjoy doing. If you are passionate about working with animals but instead become a middle school math tutor and dislike children, you won’t get as much out of it. Write down things you like to do.
There are volunteer opportunities out there for almost any interest. For example, if you enjoy working with horses, there is an organization called Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, which is a place that helps the disabled ride horses.
Once you figure out what you are particularly interested in, you have to search for something that will fit in your schedule as well as be nearby (some opportunities involve working from home).
Two of my favorite sites to look for volunteer positions are volunteermatch.org and serve.gov. Simply type in your zip code and a keyword for a specific interest you may have to find the perfect opportunity for you. Remember, you don’t have to go into volunteer positions alone. It can be fun to sign up as a pair or even as a group.
If you do not want to venture far for an opportunity, volunteer on campus as part of the Peer to Peer program. As a student, you can volunteer to help students and assist at Bellevue College events. Come to Student Programs on the second floor of the C Building and sign up!
Still need some ideas? Here are some places you may like to volunteer around Washington:
- Pike Market Food Bank- provides basic needs for people in need
- SOS Outreach- helps youth make positive decisions
- Coastal Ecosystems Research Foundation- conducts scientific research regarding the ecology and biology of whales and dolphins in the North American waters
- Kirkland Dog Off-Leash Group- provides a safe place for Kirkland residents to bring their dogs
- Community Schools Collaboration- works to provide the essential services, resources and opportunities for youth
- ArtsFund- promotes artistic and organizational excellence and advocates for the arts
- OneAmerica- builds power within immigrant communities in collaboration with allies
- The Evergreen Hospital Medical Center- provides cost-effective healthcare
- Classical 98.1- broadcasts classical music and supports art education
Effects from volunteering are positive and can impact so many lives. Volunteering will also help you focus on improving your community and getting away from an individualistic approach to life.