As a social work major and someone who loves to help others, volunteering has been part of my life since I was young. My whole family would take trips where we would volunteer our time to serve dinners, make meals, and clean up the local town whenever we could. There have been multiple volunteering memories, however, that will always stay with me.
Since I was about fifteen, I have volunteered with Special Olympics Pennsylvania. For two years, I helped with Ivy Hill Therapeutic Riding both at their farm and at Penn State for Pennsylvania’s state Special Olympics competitions. During high school, I volunteered with Upper Bucks Special Olympics Swim Team. It was created by a mom whose kids I had formerly swam with competitively, and with the help of other high school students in the area, we were able to form a team of swimmers and volunteers. This was one of my favorite volunteering opportunities throughout high school because of the memories we made as a team. We spent countless hours over the course of the years teaching students how to swim, learning how to work with students of different backgrounds and who had different disorders, and even learned about each other. We were able to form our own family and team.
Going to the food pantry was something that my family had to do for a while, which we never were ashamed of saying. Since we knew where the pantry was and that they needed help, we volunteered there once a month to package meals for families in need in our area. This opened our eyes to how the need was increasing for meals in our town, which made us want to find ways to help more. Volunteering here also gave my family a chance to bond and become who we are. My brother, who is a completely anxious and scared when it comes to new environments and talking to people, was able to grow in ways that we never imagined. That is why it was such an amazing opportunity.
This was not a volunteering memory with my family, however, I made a new family during this trip with students in Nicaragua. Through Elizabethtown College, I was able to travel with our Center for Community and Civic Engagement to work with students in Nicaragua to teach them English. The organization we worked with is called Outreach360. This experience sticks with me because of the amazing views, the people, the connections that were made during this trip, and what I learned about myself. I was able to learn what I wanted to focus on in social work as a career. It also opened my eyes to conditions around the world that I was blind to before.
Caroling with the Girl Scouts
All my sisters and I have been in Girl Scouts at some point in our lives. Last year, my youngest sister’s troop went to the nursing home near our house and sang for the seniors and then talked with them. While this isn’t the normal volunteering, it was considered volunteering for them because they were giving their time to make someone smile. We sang Christmas carols and talked to multiple residents about how their holiday season was going. They loved hearing us all sing. This was one of my favorite memories because these girls made so many people smile that night, which is what we were trying to do. Not only this, but when we walked in, they were all very nervous. By the end of our time singing, all of the girls in our group were smiling from ear to ear and could not talking about how much fun they had.
My hope through writing this is that all of you can find that volunteering isn’t always about the hard work put in, but also about the memories you take out of it. The amazing memories are what you will remember the most about the service you provide to others, the help you provide them with, and the hope for the future.