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5 Reasons You Should Consider Long Term Volunteering

It changes lives.

Growing up, I volunteered at local soup kitchens, domestic violence shelters, school events, and community service projects. The best part is nobody made me, I chose to volunteer my time for good causes. In this day and age most people send money to organizations or projects they support and while that's great and surely appreciated, people who can't donate financially can donate something just as important and needed- their time! 

After high school, I signed up for a year of service because I wanted to dedicate one hundred percent of my time to helping others. It was challenging but I cant say I regret it! Volunteers will learn new skill sets, be flexible, fix problems and make lasting changes. 

If you're thinking about what to do, whether you're young or old, you should consider long term volunteering and below are five reasons why.

1: You'll make new friends!

And maybe go for milkshakes?

Okay so your new pals won't be these friends, but they'll probably still be awesome! Some of my happiest memories are from living in community with other volunteers, making lifelong friendships. It's easy to bond and make lasting relationships with people when you're all passionate about the same stuff!

2: You'll save money!

A lot of long-term volunteer opportunities offer community living for free. Another common option might be living with fellow volunteers and saving a ton of money in the process. Most opportunities also give volunteers a stipend, and with programs like Americorps you earn scholarship money that can be applied to student loans!

3: You could visit new places!

Many people have that "travel bug", an itch to go on adventures and see new places. When long term volunteering, you have the option to go almost anywhere. While the reason for the move is to volunteer, that doesn't mean you can't be a little touristy, right? If you want to travel and help others, what better way than to volunteer? And if travel isn't your thing, there are probably opportunities close to home, too.

4: You'll make an impact!

Whether you chose to volunteer helping the environment, animals, or people, you'll certainly be making an impact. Most services that volunteers provide are permanent and make lasting change such as building houses, protecting the rain forest, or educating the next generation. Knowing that what you're doing actually matters is a great feeling and definitely worth it!

5: You'll change and grow for the better!

While volunteering, you'll do a lot for others but it will also do a lot for you. The places you'll see, the people you'll meet and the things you'll do will change your life. You'll have amazing and fulfilling experiences that will mold and grow you into a better person. Whether you are coming from high-school, college, or retirement there is always room to grow. 

Overall, volunteering is a serious commitment that is full of happiness, sadness and every emotion in between. In my own experience volunteering, I met people on a daily basis who had no food, no heat in the winter, sometimes no homes. Poor hygiene, cancer, and joblessness were constant threats to the community I served and yet every person I met was interested in me and my story. I was thanked for the work I did, praised for my bravery and shown immense gratitude, but it was I who was most affected. I will never forget the single mothers leaving abusive homes, or the grandfathers deteriorating from cancer, or any one of the people I dedicated a year of my life to. 

Obviously not everyone will want to do the same service I did, but service in general is a great thing. You will experience great things as a volunteer. You go in thinking you will be helping others but you'll leave knowing you were helped just as much.

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