Why You Should Consider Doing Community Service

Usually when a person is doing community service, our culture thinks that they’ve done something wrong and community service is their punishment. However, volunteering and becoming a resource to your community should be something that all people experience at least once in their lifetime. Between the people you meet and the memories that you can make, community service can affect you in a positive way and truly change your life.

 

    At our college, West Virginia Wesleyan, community service is near and dear to our hearts, with many majors or organisations requiring or encouraging it. These volunteers go to schools, daycares, literacy programs, and many nonprofit organisations, but it’s not something that everyone has done.

 

    It’s understandable. After all, community service implies that you will contribute your time to something that you won’t be monetarily or regularly compensated for. In our culture, time is money, and many people feel that volunteering is a waste of that precious time they need to make money and get the things they need. Students see it as time they could be studying; others as time they could be working. Even though this argument makes sense, the benefits of community service and volunteering far outweigh a salary. Personally, while I do get a scholarship for volunteering my time, I have been doing so before the scholarship and plan to continue volunteering even after I have left Wesleyan.

 

    The people you meet volunteering truly impact your life. For example, I work at an afterschool program where many of the kids come from rough home lives or at the very least are having a hard time emotionally. They can fight with you or with the other kids, and it seems like an absolute nightmare to even consider, right? But these kids have taught me and the other people there what it looks like to forgive someone for something that seems unforgivable. They share without asking, and many of them do their best to make everyone else’s day better. As a volunteer there, we also provide them with the knowledge that, no matter what their background, there are at least two, three, four adults in their life who truly care about them and want them to be happy and healthy. You learn that, even behind a sweet smile, a very sad story might be hiding where you least expect it. That knowledge helps me to remember in my own adult life to never assume that a person who is irritated or acting out is doing so to be malicious or because they want to. Many of the kids that I talk to at a local elementary school when I go there act out because they are holding a lot of emotions that they don’t know what to do with and acting out gives them somewhere to put all those emotions.

 

    You learn that people are more complicated and often so much more powerful than even they give themselves credit for. I’ve personally learned to be more humble, more considerate of others and what they have going on behind the scenes. The skills you learn while dealing with children, for instance, are skills that you use in any situation with an adult.

 

    I personally have also seen, in short term volunteer work, the difference that a dozen people or so can make when they tackle a problem in the community together, especially a problem that the community cannot financially or physically handle alone. The city of Buckhannon, where West Virginia Wesleyan College is located, has for the last several years held something called Community Unity and Kindness Day. This is a day where anyone who would like to help with various projects or needs across the community can come together and do what needs to be done. Some people last year moved furniture. A couple friends and I got the community garden ready for the spring, a task that is twofold because whoever gets a plot there gets a second plot that they donate the food grown to a local nonprofit that works to distribute clothing and food- especially fresh food- to families in need. By preparing these garden plots for the growing season, we were helping the director of the community garden who had difficulties maintaining this plots alone, the members of the community who use the garden to get fresh food at a lower cost than they might at a store, and any families that receive the food from the second plot. And it was only an hour and a half of work that flew by because I spent it in the company of people who I knew and could work well with.

 

(Image description: WVWC Alumni, Bobbi Mitchell, digging up old plants in garden beds for Community Unity and Kindness Day 2018.)

 

    A friend of mine said that when she first started to attend Wesleyan, she felt very disconnected from the community of Buckhannon. Not only did she meet friends through volunteering because she knew that the people she met while doing community service shared the same values as her, it helped her fall in love with the city outside of our college. She mentioned that she stayed in Buckhannon one summer instead of heading home, and my friend was able to stay connected to the people that she met while volunteering.

 

    Also, a lot of wonderful things can happen to you when you give back to the community. For instance, recently the high school asked for help because they didn’t have funding to obtain female hygiene items anymore. An organisation at Wesleyan then donated their time to setting up a female hygiene drive and then delivering hundreds of packages of tampons and pads to the school. It didn’t personally benefit the organisation or the women who started the drive, but their decision to spend their time helping others helped plenty of girls when they had that first or surprise period at school. The drive also brought the attention of the situation to the college community, which meant that more people could contribute but also spread the word about what happens when someone who needs these products could be at risk of serious health problems if they don’t get them. It was awesome to see the packages and know that there were potentially hundreds of girls or young women that would benefit from the time spent to organise the drive, collect the products, and deliver them. 

 

    So while you might not get paid a salary (or through a scholarship) for volunteering, it’s something that can help you feel connected to the community, something that can put into perspective the issues that people around you face and how something that you can do in half an hour, an hour, or even a day can have an impact that far outlasts you and can affect dozens or even hundreds of people. You could change a life. You could change your own.