Nine Reasons to Volunteer
By : Cynthia at Compathos
1. You're currently broke. But still feel rich. Americans are taking up public service in greater numbers because they are short on money to give.

2. Self discovery through helping others. You are needed. Venturing out of your routine, preconceptions and lifestyle bubble along with meeting people not like yourself, can lead to unexpected relationships and revelations, many which can be life changing.

3. You are passionate about a cause. Get involved with something you care about; children, the environment, animals, computers. Travel, explore, research and connect with others in your area of passion. It may even become a future career. If you are passionate about something - it also somehow translates into fun!

4. You are creative. Start a travel, photo or video journal. If you are volunteering or traveling around a cause, become a correspondent informing others. Start a Face Book page or blog, inviting others to donate and participate on line.

5. Use or develop new skills, always train someone else in skills you already have. Add new skills to your toolkit, resume or portfolio.

6. If you are a student, maybe you need to volunteer hours in order to graduate. Volunteering always looks impressive on college applications. You can also make lifetime friends and meet people you will want to stay connected with.The value of expanding your network of friends and contacts also plays a big part when it comes to future opportunities.

7. Adventure. Apathy is boring, consumerism is slavery and gluttony. There's something to be said in terms of personal growth and giving without expecting anything in return. At the end of the day perhaps you are the one who will have gained the most.

8. Participatory giving is always more memorable than writing a check.

9. Hone your observation skills. Always make a note of what works and what doesn't, there are other volunteers who need your advise before they work on a similar project.

Feeling overwhelmed by all the issues and needs in the world? Focus on your core strengths and skills or what you would like to develop at this particular chapter in your life's story. Consider it all a blank page and trust that it will tie in with previous and unwritten chapters. Which type of injustices trouble you the most? Narrow it down to one or two then research. Find out which groups and activities you resonate with. Do you want to volunteer at home or abroad? If abroad, which geographical location would you most like to visit or which people groups are you most interested in culturally? Team up with friends, family, a sports team, church or student groups. For most people local and global citizenry is a journey or a process, some just like to get their feet wet, others dive in head first.

The key is evaluation. Find out from your research and from others experiences, what works and what doesn't. Ask questions. What is the ultimate long term goal and impact of a volunteer program? What takes away from a community in terms of volunteering and what truly gives back having long term sustainable results? How involved is the local community with the projects being offered and how do they benefit? Is a system of dependency being created? Is English taught as a primary language at the expense of the original dialects? Does the organization speak the local language? How well are they connected to the community?

Who is benefiting more - the volunteer or the beneficiary? Who determines what the real needs are? Does a construction job take away needed work from the community or are others being trained in the process? Does your group come in to paint a building for the fourth time, or do they hit and run with a cruise ship trashing an island eco sanctuary leaving the locals to clean up after them. Don't laugh, it's true, some volunteer expeditions are responsible and others aren't. Always keep a sharp eye on overall impact and how a volunteer or volunteer program can fund, build and benefit a local community in the long run rather than in the short term. And let us know what you find - we'd love to hear your story.

Check out our Resources page for groups with established track records who offer volunteer programs. Check out our Video and Projects page, we will be evaluating, highlighting and adding projects on an ongoing basis.
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