Thanksgiving is more than just eating your way into a turkey-induced slumber or preparing for the following morning’s Black Friday deals. Thanksgiving is a time for remembrance — we should never forget to reflect upon the generosity and sacrifice of indigenous peoples.
Whether it’s helping your grandmother prepare a sinfully delicious mac and cheese dish, or watching a football game with friends, Thanksgiving is a time to connect with those you love.
But just as importantly, Thanksgiving is a time to give back.
Volunteers donate their time, efforts and gifts to nonprofit organizations serving underserved communities or causes without compensation. For those who identify as “broke college students,” the lack of income may make volunteer work sound unattractive. Nevertheless, volunteering has so many more benefits outside of compensation:
GAIN SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE
Volunteering not only allows one to build upon the skills they already have, but also provides opportunities to learn new skills. For example, perhaps you are a great home cook or have previous experience in the food industry. You can volunteer your time with an organization that seeks to promote nutrition in the public through free healthy cooking classes. Not only will you be able to refine your cooking skills, but you will also gain social skills such as public speaking and leadership. If you decide to pursue a culinary career in the future, you can use this experience on your resume.
POSITIVELY IMPACT THE COMMUNITY
Imagine a place where no one volunteered to feed the homeless, clean up parks or tutor children. Volunteers are the glue that holds communities together. Their contributions have the power to create positive change in their communities. For example, volunteering at a community garden can help generate enough fresh produce to feed an entire neighborhood. Additionally, mentoring a child through an after-school program boosts a child’s self-esteem and increases their chances of graduating high school. In fact, a report from The National Mentoring Partnership found at-risk children who had mentors were 55 percent more likely to apply for college than those without mentors. This further proves that the contributions volunteers make greatly impact the future of the community.
HAPPINESS AND HEALTH
One of my most memorable experiences volunteering occurred during my junior year of high school. I volunteered at an event in Seattle called the Christmas Day of Caring where we served food and provided gifts and clothing to 800 families. What I remember most about the event was the smile on each child’s face as they received a toy. The joy in the room was contagious! Each volunteer left the event with a sense of contentment and purpose.
That event inspired me to participate again the following year and later pursue other volunteer opportunities in my own community. Many volunteers can relate to this experience. Helping others brings happiness and purpose into our lives. Volunteering also has several health benefits. A study published in Health Psychology found those with truly altruistic motives that volunteered regularly lived longer, while other studies claim volunteering lowers stress and decreases feelings of loneliness.
With so many benefits, who wouldn’t want to volunteer?
Interested students can start volunteering by joining UWT’s Service Coalition. After filling out a membership application, the Service Coalition will connect students and registered student organizations with opportunities to serve nonprofit organizations. Students can also volunteer by registering for a BreakAway trip.
This year’s Winter BreakAway is in partnership with Tacoma Pierce County Habitat for Humanity. During this trip, students will spend three days assisting with construction projects and discussing affordable housing. The last day to register for Winter BreakAway is Nov. 26.
For those who are concerned about the environment, the Spring BreakAway trip will take students to Eugene, Oregon to participate in environmental restoration. Registration for the Spring BreakAway trip is due Feb.15.