4 Ways To Make Your Winter Break More Meaningful

Let’s face it - the second winter break hits, we are glued to our beds watching Netflix for the next month. All our motivation is thrown out of the window, and we want nothing else but to lie in bed until 2 p.m. and not feel guilty about it. While sleeping, doing nothing and binge-watching How I Met Your Mother is awesome, sometimes it may be better to think about spending our winter breaks a little differently. Here are a few ways that you can get involved with some great volunteer groups and other opportunities during winter break.

Outreach360

This winter, I chose to share a week of my life in Nicaragua with an amazing volunteer organization called Outreach360. Although it’s too late to join the winter break trip, Outreach360 has spring and summer trips as well as trips of all durations. I know some people that have gone to Nicaragua on my same trip for over a year, but it all depends on the person and what kind of time you have to set aside. During my stay in Nicaragua, I will be volunteering with a group of Penn State students. Our entire trip is dedicated to the local children who we will be teaching English and healthy habits to.

For one, this is my first time going on this trip, so I’m unable to share any previous experience. However, I can’t stress how big of an opportunity this is for anyone. It allows you to spend time with amazing children who will appreciate every minute you spend with them as well as explore a beautiful country. I would highly encourage anyone who is interested to contact the team leaders, Anthony Amato and Alyssa Gehman - they will be able to share any information you need and prepare you for the trip next year.

Utopia

Another volunteer trip that you can take advantage of is a trip that my friend is going on this winter as well. She is going to Guatemala for two weeks through an international program called Utopia. While there, she is going to help build stoves for the indigenous families. Many people in Guatemala do not have proper stoves to use for cooking food, which can cause fires, deadly smoke and produce health problems that kill two million every year. Through Utopia, you are able to do a number of volunteer projects such as medical assistance, rainforest reforestation, teaching English in schools and female empowerment.

Salvation Army

Obviously, it is expensive to go to another country. So if you can’t afford to fly somewhere else, why not do some volunteering in your own city? I’m sure most of us have seen or at least have heard about the Salvation Army bell ringers standing outside grocery stores. I did that one year with my best friend, and we had a nice time talking with donors and raising money for a good cause. The money that is donated is used to pay for food for the homeless, provide furniture for those struggling and deliver Christmas gifts to those who cannot afford them. It is recorded that bell ringers collect about $30 of donations per hour. Additionally, bell ringing shifts are usually a minimum of two hours and can be done with a friend, just like I did.

Soup kitchens/Food pantries

Another way to volunteer locally is to work in a soup kitchen. Soup kitchens are designed to feed the homeless and operate highly on volunteers. This is one volunteer opportunity that I’ve never taken advantage of, but I think it would be a great experience. These people unfortunately do not have as much as some of us and are very grateful to have volunteers. But maybe you don’t want to immediately jump into a soup kitchen - it can be easier to get started by donating food to food pantries. By bringing food to these pantries, you can better familiarize yourself with the volunteers there and ask for more information.

So once you grow tired of watching Netflix and lying on that couch all day, we hope you consider volunteering for even just little bit over this winter break. Not only will this break be more meaningful for all the people who need your help, but you will feel so much better about yourself too.

Here’s to a winter break worth remembering, collegiettes!

Photo credit: Anthony Amato