“This year’s annual 'Giving USA' report takes note of an interesting new trend: a decline in Millennials volunteering their time. If the next generation does not have the hands-on experience of seeing and serving, they are less likely to give. Causes need to start early and work to engage Millennials, connecting them to volunteerism opportunities that will allow them to use their skills and see first-hand the impact of a cause’s mission” (Foster, Millennials Rush In).
The spirit of volunteerism was instilled in me since I was a high school student. It wasn’t by choice. In order to graduate, I had to complete at least twenty hours of community service each academic year. All throughout high school, I viewed volunteering as a nuisance because it meant time away from my friends and sleep. By the time I graduated, I was happy to not have to volunteer anymore. But the spirit of volunteerism didn’t disappear in college; instead, it blossomed. Working side-by-side with other volunteers, we formed friendships and business contacts, our individual skills expanded, our perspectives about the world and life gained depth. I found my own identity through the years of volunteering for various organizations as I learned about different cultures and what ails humanity.
I combined my skills in social media and interest in global issues in the role of Digital Communications Coordinator at The United Nations Association of Atlanta. Through this role, I met some Millennials who are passionate about cultural exchanges, global affairs, and peace advocacy. Through my volunteer work, I gained insight on some pressing issues of society, experienced a renewal of hope and passion that the world can become a better place for all, connected with like-minded people with the goal to create positive change in our communities. Volunteerism gives youths the opportunity to be the next generation of global citizens who combine civic duties and other social good activities in their lives. These youths will eventually become the new faces of philanthropy and social entrepreneurship.
Volunteering for the Cool Scholars program, as one of the representatives from American Association of University Women –Atlanta Chapter, I see the students as potential leaders in their communities. The ladies are part of a group that has a strong moral support system, discussing themes that help them gain a better sense of who they are and who they want to become. The Cool Scholars are experiencing the benefits of the program and having their worldviews expanded by engaging with experienced volunteers. The Cool Scholars themselves have opened the minds of the volunteers as well. We are all learning from each other, crossing cultures and generations. Perhaps when the Cool Scholars become adults and have their own families, they would want to encourage those around them to volunteer and help those in need. After having benefited from a volunteer program, these beneficiaries have great potential to become future volunteers and philanthropists, spreading civic and humanitarian activities across communities.
Twelve years ago, I would grudgingly sign up for volunteer work. Now, I can’t seem to say “no” whenever help is needed. My love for volunteerism came by gradually because I didn’t understand the benefits of serving my community until my adulthood. I didn’t realize that by working for a cause with passionate like-minded individuals, I gained insight into my own identity and relationship to others, the community, and even the world. I encourage everyone, especially youths and those who are still discovering their identities, to volunteer. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Imagine what humanity can accomplish if all youths were to see the value in volunteerism and social good.
Do you live in the Atlanta area and are interested in volunteering? Connect with the United Nations Association of Atlanta on Facebook.
For more of Nalat's writings, please visit her blog.