Why People Volunteer: The Top 10 Reasons

Volunteering and civic engagement are the cornerstones of a strong nation. Citizens work together to help solve problems and make their communities better places to live and work. While people volunteer for all sorts of reasons it is beneficial for everyone.

Here is the list of the top 10 reasons people volunteer:

  1. Sense of self satisfaction: Many people like to use their free time in ways that bring them personal satisfaction and allow them to develop a positive self-image. They want to feel needed, or like to keep busy in a way that is useful, others want to earn the respect of their peers and friends while doing something useful for their community.
  2. Altruism: Many people from all economic strata believe that helping others is a necessary part of a complete and good life. Often this impulse grows out of religious beliefs or family traditions and upbringings. Sometimes when individuals have little income to spare, volunteering provides the only way to express such altruism.
  3. Companionship/meeting people: Volunteering is a great way to meet and mix with other people. It can allow you widen your circle of acquaintances and develop personal bonds. Individuals who moved to a new community, couples who have lost a spouse, adolescents and young professionals looking for a more active social life; may all look to volunteerism as a way to make a friend.
  4. Learning about a field: Volunteering is an excellent approach to learning about a particular field of interest, especially if training and learning opportunities are built into an organization’s volunteer program. Those who want to learn about foreign countries, current events, religious traditions, the arts, or a host of other fields can do so through volunteerism.
  5. Creating/maintaining an organization: Some volunteers are entrepreneurs who devote their energies to creating nonprofit organizations and helping them grow and thrive. Pride in their organization’s success and continued expansion is often a prime motivating factor in their volunteer activities.
  6. Developing professional contacts: Volunteering can put you in touch with important members of the community. Some people use volunteer jobs as a way to make contact which may lead them to clients or other business opportunities.
  7. Getting ahead in the corporation: Many profit sector corporations view employee volunteer service as an important way for the company to make a contribution to the community. Young professionals know that a volunteer position can be a real asset on a resume.
  8. Getting training/experience: For individuals, a volunteer position is a route to finding a paying job. Young people, people who have been out of the work force for some time, or people wishing to change professions will use volunteer opportunities as a way to further these personal goals. They may learn a task, gain a marketable skill, or secure a recommendation for future employment.
  9. Providing entry to a particular organization: For people who have a strong interest in working or serving on the board of an organization, volunteering provides an important entry point to becoming involved. Volunteering may be the necessary first steps on a ladder that eventually leads to a paying job or a seat on the board.
  10. Social panache: There is much prestige associated with certain organizations and their volunteers represent an elite group within the community. Association with these volunteers carries a certain degree of status and marks a person as being part of a desirable social group.

Wanting to get more involved? Please check out our summer volunteer opportunities here.

Resources:

Book: Thomas Wolf, Managing a Non-Profit Organization in the 21st Century

Website: http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/

Post Written By:
Audrey Kidwell
AmeriCorps VISTA
a.kidwell@umiami.edu

“There should be more people like you…”

I regularly take part in community service, but my most recent visit to Camillus House was an impactful and truly unique experience.

In addition to participating in the event, I had to plan the whole service project from the beginning.  For me, the planning part was a whole new experience.

Throughout my first semester at UM I attended campus events and was able to use what I learned from these experiences to plan my own.

Since then, I’ve become a better at event planning.

To start the Camillus House service day project, I held a clothing drive and placed various boxes around campus. The turn out was great and I gathered about 5 bags full of donations for Camillus house.

On the day I delivered the clothes to Camillus House, I went with a group of friends to help serve dinner. I helped serve and distribute grape juice during dinner. Those we served were very grateful; I heard a ‘thank you’ every time I handed someone a cup a juice.

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When dinner was over, we helped clean the tables. As I was cleaning, a man, who had just finished his dinner, quietly came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. “Thank you for being here and helping out. There should be more people like you,” he said. “Have a great day and God bless you.” Then he walked out of the dining hall.

I was left speechless. Those are the moments I look forward to when I volunteer.

It was an awesome experience and the people that joined me thought the same. It’s stories and personal experiences like this one that motivate me to continue volunteering and make it part of my everyday life.

Post Written By:
Tony Cañero
Service and Leadership Liaison
a.canero@umiami.edu

My Peace Corps Experience

Waking up every day to a new experience might frighten some, but to volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, it’s just a regular day. I served in Burkina Faso, a country in Western Africa, from 2008- 2012 as a health volunteer. I taught health education and outreach – spending most of my time weighing babies, teaching mothers proper food preparation, and teaching children how to correctly wash their hands.

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During my first two years, I implemented activities and programs based on the needs of my community. To address poor hygiene in the community, I designed and taught monthly classes at elementary schools. I went from class to class explaining hand-washing techniques, modes of transmission for diseases, or proper uses of the outdoor bathroom.

To give my youth activities to do after school, I started a Girls Club and a boys’ soccer league. The Girls Club met weekly throughout the year. We discussed different health topics and life skills. The boys’ soccer league met during summer break. During half-time of the soccer games, the Girls Club talked to the crowd about good health and hygiene practices.

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After my first two years in Burkina Faso, I came back to the US for a month-long vacation. During this time I got asked all sorts of questions along the lines of, “What did you like about Africa?” or “What was the worst part about Burkina?”

What I loved most was the sense of community. My village was small, but everyone knew each other.

But not in the way were you know everyone’s business. Instead, when there was a crisis, everyone banned together. I loved that everyone knew each other’s names or looked after pets when owners were out of town.

These villagers lack a lot of resources and materials, but they are very rich. They have a strong community – stronger than most US communities I’ve ever lived.

After spending three years of grassroots work – where I was the pusher, teacher, and project developer – I saw the difference I made in this community. I showed them how to combat their problems by identifying and using their local resources. Although I may have been the push they needed, they truly did the work themselves.

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When most people ask me to describe my first 39 months worth of experience in a sentence or two, I usually say, “It was great!” And it was great, but it could be better described as a rollercoaster. Once you start, you’re normally scared, since you don’t really know what you got yourself into.  Then you get used to it and maybe start to like it. During the ride you have a lot of ups and downs, but in the end you love it so much it leaves you wanting more, and you want to ride it one more time.

That’s exactly how my Peace Corps experience was, it left me wanting more. To learn more, check out my blog.

Post Written By:
Audrey Kidwell
AmeriCorps VISTA
a.kidwell@umiami.edu

Why do You Relay?

I chose to work with UM’s Relay For Life because it is a cause that I am passionate about. Cancer unfortunately affects everyone, and I truly want a world where no one will ever have to hear the words “You have cancer.”

I think that Relay For Life gives our community a place to come together for an important cause. It is something that, as I said, everyone can unfortunately relate to, and our event provides students with the opportunity to fight back against cancer.

University of Miami Relay For Life

I am the Event Chair for Relay for Life, which is the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The event is on April 6, 2013 from 9am to 11pm on the Foote Green.

There will be food, games, entertainment, and fun! We celebrate cancer survivors, remember those we’ve lost, and fight back against cancer. To register, go to relayforlife.org/umfl or email us at umiamirelay@gmail.com.

Post Written By:
Brittany Mathes
URelay Event Chair
umiamirelay@gmail.com

We are Public Allies (Part 2)

Read: We are Public Allies (Part 1)

For many of the Allies this year, we came from out of state with no connection to Miami other than the PA program. Collaboration and asset-based thinking quickly became necessary to navigate the city. We worked together to find things to do, places to live, things to see. We built on our assets, relying on our Miami natives to give us the ins and outs and working together to ensure that work didn’t take over our lives.

Collaboration isn’t just for capacity building at our placements or building team service projects, it’s for when things get rough and you need someone to balance you.

It’s for when you need a smile and they have an extra joke. Collaboration is motivation. It means saying this is where I am headed, this is where you are headed, and this is how we can strengthen and support each other to get where we want to be.

As Allies, we have learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, leadership styles, hidden talents, biggest fears, and wildest dreams. Being asset-based in our daily lives benefits us individually. I know who to call on if I need a photographer, a therapy session, to discuss the rights of women, or figure out what type of butterfly I caught.

Now what about being a continuous learner?

Allies learn from each other every day. From a sense of fashion to the causes being fought for in various countries, the Public Allies of Miami are well informed.

We share knowledge, we debate, we learn random facts, we present new perspectives on common issues. This is how we learn.

Our program managers work hard to provide us with a variety of information during our training sessions but more than that, they create a free and safe space were we can discuss any issue. They understand that it’s not just the presenters that we learn from; in fact, I am pretty sure they only bring in the presenters as a catalyst to fuel our discussions. It’s the difference between theory and applied knowledge.

We are growing as people, personally and professionally. We are a family and family pushes you forward. We learn from each other, we see the impact these lessons have in our lives and the lives of our peers so when we do go into the community the connection is there, we get it!

The less you learn, the less you grow; and the less you grow the less you can empower yourself or others.

Location is everything, and what better place to be than the sunny beaches of Miami. But, if you ask one of the Allies the benefit of being here, it’s not only the sun and the sand that are great assets to Miami. It’s the fact that we don’t have to leave our own neighborhoods to experience new cultures.

I don’t have to wait to get my passport stamped to eat authentic Cuban or fly across the ocean to take photos of exotic plants and animals. I can call my fellow Allies and take a trip to Little Havana or step outside and visit one of the many botanical gardens. I can experience the beauty of Haitian art or take a trip to the past in one of the many historical neighborhoods Miami offers.

I realized that in my first year down hear what made the city unbearable was I wasn’t engaged, I had no new experiences in a city so rich in culture and history.

Public Allies has changed that for me. I asked fellow Allies to give me there input on what they’ve gotten from the program so far. The title of this blog series was taken from one response.

Many of the ideas I expressed are based on the thoughts and conversations we have shared. One of the Allies said:

I get to view Miami in a perspective not many get to see as well as work with brilliant minded people who are out to make a difference.

Public Allies forces you to look deeper, to accept not only the differences of others but to accept your own differences. Those differences make us unique, they make us human.

What does all of this mean to the communities we serve? It means they get a group of people who are dedicated and determined to making a change. A group of young people that embrace diversity and revel in the wealth of knowledge housed in the communities we serve, just waiting to be tapped into.

As Allies we are future leaders; leaders who will be capable of compassion and understanding and who won’t hesitate to acknowledge where and when we need help and reach out to fill that gap. Public Allies Miami is a family. Once a P.A.M. always a P.A.M.

Post Written By:
De’Azia Baldwin
Public Ally
Butler Center for Service and Leadership
Office of Civic and Community Engagement
dbalwin@miami.edu

We are Public Allies (Part 1)

Who are you?

Where are you going?

How do you get there?

These life questions become more and more difficult to answer in the midst of an ever changing global community.

Finding your niche, knowing what road to travel and, most importantly, having faith in yourself to follow your dreams are imperative components of any good leader.

But there is the hanging question: Can I really lead? I, like many of my fellow Public Allies, had a strong sense of urgency to figure out life and become this awesome person everyone else said they saw in me. But how do I get there?

I moved to Miami for graduate school and after my first year I was miserable. I hated the city, realized the graduate program wasn’t for me, and longed to return home. As I began to contemplate leaving the city, a friend of mine handed me a flier for Public Allies (PA) Miami. DING! A light turned on in me. As I read about the program, my interest and respect for the organization grew. I applied and was accepted into the 2012-2013 PA Miami class.

Despite the challenges, this is one of the best decisions I’ve made thus far.

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Often times my fellow Allies and I get together and talk about life, our placements, our next steps, and our passions. I stopped to ponder over my work as a Public Ally in Miami and discovered how instrumental this program has been in helping me shape and define my ambitions.

Many people join AmeriCorps programs during transitional periods in life. Rather than sitting stagnant or wandering aimlessly through life, we seek to fulfill our sense of commitment to the greater good or take advantage of the opportunity to travel to other countries and become enriched by new cultures.

But what about all of the diverse cultures here? What about the commitment to myself?

After talking to my fellow Allies, I realized that one of the things that resonated with all of us about the program is the opportunity for and emphasis on self-growth.

Public Allies is not just about how you can help others, it’s about how you can help others by helping yourself.

Our five core values are: collaboration, continuous learning, diversity and inclusion, asset-based thinking, and integrity. Each of the Allies has their own story, area of interest, and innate talents. We are a diverse group. But what bonds us together is the sense of home we have found with each other.

I have found that the Miami Allies are some of the most inclusive people I have ever met and we enjoy the diversity we share.

Allies are accountable to each other. We respect each other and value each other’s insight. Aristotle said, “it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” You cannot win a debate with a PA Miami member because we are too strong minded and quick witted but, you should debate us because we will hold you to your beliefs.

The Miami Ally experience is helping all of us to define our personal values. The activities, the training, the coaching sessions, the companionship strengthens who we are as people. When Paul Schmitz, the CEO of Public Allies, came to visit us, we discussed what it was that made a bad leader, the answer is lack of integrity.

What you do, how you think and feel, and your opinions are all a part of your leadership style.

One of the most valuable aspects of the program is the opportunity for the Ally to step back and say, “this is how I want to be perceived, this is my self-image, and this is what I need to work on to make sure I’m projecting that to other.”

Look for Part 2 next week!

Post Written By:
De’Azia Baldwin
Public Ally
Butler Center for Service and Leadership
Office of Civic and Community Engagement
dbalwin@miami.edu