At some point or another, we all contribute to human society by volunteering. Whether it’s at a soup kitchen, cleaning beaches, organizing a youth conference, or simply giving a couple of dollars to someone in need, most of us have experienced the gift of giving. However, I want to challenge everyone to critically think about volunteering, our intention, and purpose.
Who volunteers? (Is it a coincidence that people from low socioeconomic status are more likely to volunteer?)
Why are we motivated to volunteer? (Are there social, political, economic benefits? i.e tax breaks, extra credit)
What types of volunteering do people partake in?(Are you volunteering time or extra money you may have?)
These are some initial questions that may come up if you are thinking about volunteering. But what else can we think of when “volunteering” comes up? I started volunteering because it was a value instilled upon me at school. I grew up knowing that volunteering is good. Why was it good? I didn’t even question it. As I grew older, I found out some benefits to volunteering: getting in to college. Obviously, at a young age I wanted to help people that were disadvantaged: people who did not have the same opportunities that I did. However, there was a reward for me: looking good for college admissions. As I grew older and attended university, I realized a lot of people volunteered on a cost-benefit basis. Thought trajectories along the line of, “I volunteer not necessarily because I want to help disadvantaged people, but because I will get extra credit and consequently improve my class grade.” I want to challenge readers to think about their volunteer efforts and come up with ways to positively volunteer.
Positive volunteering: Volunteering with a purpose that does not involve personal benefit, but does involve the greater good of society.
Example: I recently became a Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer. I am a big sister to a young teenage girl in the Phoenix area. Over the years I have volunteered in numerous projects, but I felt BBBS was a little different. I would be contributing time and a long lasting relationship to a young girl that comes from a low socioeconomic background. I wouldn’t be getting “extra credit” or putting it on college applications. In fact, I would take off hours from work and spend my own money on activities for me and my little (all of which I didn’t mind). I really wanted to create positive impact on disadvantaged youth, but work more closely and make a longer lasting impact. I didn’t want to just show up to one event and tutor kids, or hand out free school supplies, I wanted to serve as a positive role model for this young girl. Months later, I text my little and we schedule biweekly hangouts where I expose her to new things. My emphasis is on exposing her to different cultures via food, events, and activities. I want to show here the possibilities of traveling, working, education, and show her that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Here is a picture of me and my little, Maliyah.