Volunteering can be a wonderful experience. Not only can you help out an organization, but it can benefit you as well by making you a wiser, more appreciative, and better person. And to encourage you to try volunteering, this piece is a compilation of volunteering stories from people who have volunteered and are glad to have done so.
It’s our hope that you’ll feel some inspiration to try volunteering yourself after reading some of these stories. 🙂
So far, we’ve received 13 great stories volunteers have sent us on their volunteering experience, which we’ve summarized below:
- Volunteering at a youth club for children mainly of poor backgrounds, and seeing them improve their skills and social interactions (link)
- Delivering meals to elderly people, and realizing the struggles of the elderly (link)
- Going to Uganda and getting to know a different culture and country (link)
- Getting cats adopted, cleaned and fed and enjoying helping people find the cat that’s right for them (link)
- Preserving native plant varieties and meeting people who share a common passion (link)
- Working in youth groups and seeing students having improved years later (link)
- Cleaning up garbage on a beach and having a greater realization of the importance of the oceans and the earth (link)
- Developing a musical theatre summer camp and feeling joy in sharing the gift of art and expression (link)
- Taking care of elephants and learning more about animal tourism (link)
- Providing food boxes to Syrian refugee families and seeing their gratitude (link)
- Collaborating in a research project on the impacts of tourism and using the knowledge later when starting a company (link)
- Speaking at a conference to help the LGBT community (link)
- Being on the boards of several non profits and meeting like-minded people (link)
Finally, if you’ve volunteered yourself and have a nice story to add, please make a submission here.
I've done many volunteering roles over the years, however one that stood out for me the most was my time at a youth club for kids and teens. Not only did I learn how to appreciate the work of volunteers around the world, but also learn that many of our possessions do not matter. Majority of the children that came through those doors were of poor backgrounds, therefore the playtime they were able to enjoy at the club brought them so much joy it was beautiful to watch. It's also great to see how they develop their skills and social interactions over the weeks that they participate in these clubs and activities that were run. I definitely recommend volunteering wherever you get a chance to learn more about the society we live in and also learning more about yourself.
--Elliott Reimers, Rave Reviews
My dad asked me to volunteer with our local Meals On Wheels when I was 15 years old. We volunteered every Saturday morning during the summer while I was off school. We delivered hot meals to elderly people in our town who were unable to make their own food. I really enjoyed it for a number of reasons:
It gave me a huge sense of accomplishment because it was my first volunteering experience and I had never had a job before either. I felt like I was helping my community and it made me really proud.
It also made me aware of some of the struggles of the elderly. Particularly when it came to mobility, and also the fact that a lot of elderly people are lonely. Many of the recipients asked us to stay for five minutes for a chat - it broke my heart at the time! It made me appreciate my grandparents a lot more and gave me more respect for elderly people in general.
At 15, it's quite easy to be self-absorbed. The volunteering experience definitely made me a better person and made me think a lot more about other people and their needs. It was quite special because my dad and I would go for breakfast afterward, so in addition to the great feeling from volunteering, it was also a nice bonding experience for us!
--Laura Chawke, Makeup Scholar
I am so glad that I chose to volunteer with BVDA in Uganda over 20 years ago now. Helping out on that project was an amazing experience and thoroughly rewarding. It was like having the best holiday ever and I've never been so proud to be part of something so magical.
One of the reasons I decided to volunteer with BVDA was that I wanted to go outside of my comfort zone and get to know people from different cultures, countries, races and ways of life - communicating with different people really helped my social skills and I became a lot more patient and understanding of other cultures as a result.
I learned a lot about how small NGOs like Little Big Africa work to make a difference, as well as the many barriers that the country itself puts in the way
This experience taught me a new way of operating and communicating with a team in an unfamiliar and difficult environment.
--Mike Falahee, Marygrove Awnings
My name is Joseph Glatzer, and I have been a middle school History teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area for the past 5 years. I have also been volunteering with Berkeley Humane as a Feline Friend for the past 3 years, working with the cats. It really changed my life beyond what I ever expected. I have helped to get them adopted, cleaned their habitats, fed them, and gave them love and attention. I've enjoyed feeling like I was making a difference. There are so many cats on the street with no one to care for them, and I have helped over a hundred cats get adopted. This includes very affectionate and young cats who are easy to get adopted; as well as visually impaired, more stand-offish, senior and FIV+ cats. It has been incredibly rewarding. When I first started, I only planned to do it to stay busy for the summer, because I'm a teacher and I get the summers off; but then I got hooked. There's nothing like watching a cat go out the door with a happy new pet parent.
It has made me grateful for the things I have, and also for my own cats. It's confirmed for me that people are intrinsically good, because I get to see everyone at their best. It is very humbling to have the responsibility to help someone figure out which cat will be best for them. Some people like active cats they can play with a lot, and others want someone who can just lay around and hang out with them while they watch TV. This experience has confirmed for me that every cat is special, they all deserve a loving home, and everyone deserves the joy of pet companionship.
--Joseph Glatzer, josephglatzer.com
I volunteered for a few years for the Native Plant Society. I’m very passionate about preserving native varieties of plants. Growing native plants goes further than just “growing plants”. You’re actively preserving native varieties, which helps regenerate bushland and wildlife habitat. It’s also a great way of attracting wildlife to your backyard and there’s nothing better than falling asleep at night, listening to happy frogs!
What I enjoyed most about it was the camaraderie. You’re a part of a group of people who share a common passion. There’s something about having a common goal. Volunteers tend to be very passionate about what they do. Since you’re not getting paid, everyone is there because they feel strongly about it. It’s incredibly motivating.
The learning opportunities are a great benefit as well. I got the opportunity to study some units in permaculture, bushland regeneration, propagation, and sustainable landscape design. Lastly, volunteering looks great on your resume!
Volunteering made me a better person because rather than just “being passionate,” I actively worked on making it happen. I realized I could do more than I thought I could. I also saw that when people come together with a common goal, we really can move heaven and earth.
--Elle Meager, Outdoor Happens
I often volunteer. I live between Los Angeles and Cape Town. When I am in Los Angeles I volunteer for an organization called YBA, Youth Buisness Alliance. When in South Africa I volunteer for two groups. PYDA, Pinotage Youth Development Academy and Blacc .
I especially like working the youth groups. Both youth groups help black and brown students from disadvantage neighborhoods . I like being a face of possibility for the students. My tone is down to earth and relatable. I come from where they come from and look like them. I offer them insight into career opportunities and entrepreneurship that is not typical of what they usually experience. I share my travels and unique business that was started from passion.
I love seeing the students years later. When they approach me and say that one thing I Said changed their mindset, or motivated them or they tried one of my suggestions.
For example one of my students in PYDA started his own in home wine tasting business called Kasi to Kasi ( township to township).
--Tuanni Price, Zuri Wine Tasting
When I was in college, I volunteered at New London, Connecticut, on Earth Day to help clean up a local beach. As a college student, I was juggling a variety of classes, and feeling stressed out, while also figuring out dating. I also was teaching yoga on the side in addition to taking my college classes.. While I was socializing with my friends and cleaning up garbage while volunteering on this local beach, I came across a drug syringe. This was a shocking moment that really made me so grateful for my college education, my supportive parents and family, it made me realize just how close addiction is in our lives- often we don’t even realize it. Volunteering on the beach this day also taught me a lot about how important it is to keep our beach is clean. I was also with my environmentalist class. Being with fellow environmentalists helped me learn about the different marine creatures on this special Earth Day volunteer experience. I learned how important seaweed, muscles, fish, and all different little organisms (that we never really even think about) are in terms of their importance to the oceans and earth. With pollution and all the garbage, we don’t really realize how big our waste impact is.
--Katie Ziskind, Wisdom Within Counseling LLC
I attend an Art School in Southern California for Musical Theatre and have always pursued artistic pursuits throughout my life. I have also have a lot of volunteering experience from volunteering at food banks to raising money to help patients suffering from blood cancer. All the things I mentioned above, are what motivated me to pursue my favorite volunteering pursuit so far:
The experience that has been by far my favorite was the work I did last summer. I developed and implemented a Musical Theatre Summer Camp at a local community center that served low-income families. This camp allowed children, who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to, gain a basic education in Singing, Dancing, and Acting while also allowing them to feel as though they were apart of something. This camp fundamentally impacted the way I view both the world and the profound impact people can have. The children came from all backgrounds, we had some homeless children, undocumented children, and many children who had experienced gang-related violence throughout their lives. I cannot fully express the happiness it brings me to be able to share a creative outlet for them. I truly believe in the importance of art and expression and I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to share that gift with them. This experience has reminded me how important it is to give back to others. I have also found a greater appreciation for everything I have been lucky enough to experience.
--Gabby Talarico, Blonde with a Blog
Back in 2017, I volunteered with elephants in South Africa for one month. It was one of the best months of my life. It was an eye-opening experience that challenged some of my beliefs on how animals are used for tourism.
I volunteered with AERU (African Elephant Research Unit) at Knysna Elephant Park. The volunteer work that we did would change a bit each day, but it mostly consisted of cleaning elephant camps, preparing their food, observing and taking notes on elephant behavior, picking up samples of elephant dung for research purposes, and importing elephant data into the computer.
I felt like we were being useful because AERU is the first research and volunteer program dedicated to optimizing the welfare and management of captive and wild elephants in South Africa. Due to poaching, it is better for elephants to be in captivity than to be in the wild. Before AERU, there was a lack of research on captive African elephants, and AERU has some of the best data on captive elephants in the world.
It made me a better person because of how I now view animal tourism. I am a vegan and a lot of misinformation is spread in the vegan community about animal tourism. Most vegans will tell you that you shouldn’t involve yourself with any tourism activities involving animals. Elephants parks and sanctuaries are a necessity though due to poaching and unethical elephant riding. Many elephant parks and sanctuaries cannot run on donations alone. Most of the money comes from tourists who want to see these animals up close.
--Haley Gallerani, The Vegan Abroad
My name is Jaimie Eckert, I’ve been into volunteer work since childhood. As a girl, I volunteered at animal shelters, played music at nursing homes, and helped with community cleanup after tornadoes. In college, I volunteered heavily at a large yearly conference for Christian young adults, which is where I fell in love with my husband-to-be, who was on my team of co-volunteers. Since getting married in 2013, we’ve been living in Beirut, Lebanon. We are probably your most “official” volunteers because we actually live here as expats on a volunteer visa. My husband works for a nonprofit organization. I actually have an online coaching business but I’ve had many opportunities to volunteer with projects for Syrian refugees and youth education.
So to answer your specific questions. Yes, volunteering has been a way of life for me for a very long time, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. Most of the time, you do feel that you’re making a difference. I can tell stories about special moments when I really felt I was making a difference. Once I was leading out a project that provided food boxes to vulnerable Syrian refugee families. When it was nearing Ramadan, the biggest holiday season in Islam, I literally stuffed the food package with extra treats…dates, labneh, nuts, olive oil, sweets. We took the package unannounced and ended up arriving just as the Syrian family was sitting down on their floor for breakfast. They had nothing more than a few pieces of bread and a pot of tea. The mother was in tears as she received us. I’ll never forget their gratitude.
Another time, back when I was in college in the US, a group of friends and I volunteered to drive to a distant church that was way out in the boonies and had only a few elderly members. The building was in disrepair and the churchyard needed attention. We stayed the weekend in the home of one of these old ladies so we could clean and repair the church. I’ll never forget how new life sparkled in her eyes as she fluffed her house for us and brought a steady stream of frozen peach smoothies. She couldn’t repair broken doors or pull weeds, but she loved on us like nothing else. It breaks my heart to remember this old lady beaming with joy for such small efforts that we made. Sometimes, volunteer work is fulfilling not because of the actual job you get done, but because of how your presence impacts the people around you. No, we didn’t do a complete church makeover — we only had a day — but our presence and efforts communicated to this elderly, rural church group that they mattered.
Volunteering makes me a better person because it gets me outside of myself. It puts my focus on others. It makes me grateful for what I have. As a Christian, it gives me a chance to serve like Jesus served, which gives a deep sense of meaning to my life.
--Jaimie Eckert, jaimieeckert.com
After finishing graduate school I chose to participate in a skilled volunteer program in Mexico. I collaborated on a research project investigating the negative social, economic, and environmental impacts of tourism near Puerto Vallarta. The key insights from the study were used to develop educational seminars for local populations and design more effective programming. The team I worked with at the non-profit was composed of intelligent, dynamic, and motivated young women, who greatly contributed to my own personal and professional growth. In addition, the skills and knowledge that I learned over a 6 month time period were integral to my future career path in international development and foundational to starting my own company with clients throughout Latin America. Becoming a volunteer was one of the most valuable and enjoyable experiences in my life, which I highly recommend to students and graduates of all ages.
--Kyla Egan, Impactful Tourism Consultancy
My name is Kenny Screven, I’m a social media influencer / LGBT+ advocate who enjoys giving back to my community. Specifically I enjoy working with the LGBT+ population. That population in particular has high suicide rates and homelessness. In fact I was able to speak at a conference about PrEP services and my experience. I was able to talk with a bunch of healthcare providers from all over the world to discuss how PrEP can be important to our LGBT+ youth of color.
Before volunteering to speak at this conference I was really afraid to open up to random people about my experiences. However, after doing my panel, I felt amazing helping people from my community and getting the conversation started. Often health care providers might not realize all the populations they serve. Every population is different and it's important that you treat everyone with the same respect. People like me are often afraid to take care of their health and follow up with doctors appointments. During this time it is crucial that we are taking care of our health. I felt useful and helpful to healthcare providers and my community. It’s a real sense of relief when you’re advocating for people like you. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Now Panels are something that i feel really confident doing for the future. I tackled one of my biggest fears and it really paid off. It was worth every bit. Ultimately, being a voice for your community can help open doors for many. I was just honored to be given the opportunity to volunteer and tell my experience to working professionals.
--Kenny Screven, @kscreven on Instagram
Volunteering is a great way to get to know like-minded people who care about causes you believe in. Whether you give time to a local nonprofit or join a committee of a charity you will meet others who share your values and passion. They get to know you on a personal level so it is a very natural way to network through the joint mission. I am on the boards of several non profits and have made friends, gotten to know people I have hired or recommended to others. Volunteering is the ultimate way to do well by doing good. In my experience the more you give the more you get. I am always glad to get involved and help raise money for a great cause (museum, youth sports program, etc.) or roll up my sleeves to paint houses (Christmas in July), garden (Habitat for Humanity) or pass out food (local food bank) in the community. I love helping others and giving back to people less fortunate I feel we all have a responsibility to help our communities thrive where we can pitch in.
--Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls