For me, any break from school equals endless movie and television show marathons. However, due to the requirements for graduate school admissions, I decided to spend my time off volunteering this winter break. Although I did miss out on days where I did absolutely nothing, the feeling of giving back to my community was much more rewarding.
On one morning during my weeks off, I woke up and decided to venture to the Orange County Animal Shelter to walk and play with the dogs. As a volunteer, my duties are to socialize, groom and walk the dogs that are up for adoption. Sometimes, dogs come in scared because they lived out on the streets, so volunteers ensure that they become acclimated to people petting and walking them. We also talk to the families that are looking to adopt about a particular dog’s personality, making sure to point out all of the animal’s good qualities.
One particular four-year-old that I fell in love with was a black terrier mix named Misty. Once I inserted the key into the lock, she knew I was going to take her out and she shook with excitement. I put on her leash and we began our walk by walking around the pound. When I sat down on a bench, she immediately jumped on my lap. I knew that with her personality and looks, she would be adopted soon.
All of the dogs are irresistibly adorable and have great personalities. There is a misconception that pounds are filled with Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls, and yes they do outnumber other breeds, but they all have unique personalities and it is exciting to get to know each one. Playing with the dogs makes time go by so fast while volunteering at the shelter.
To get involved, all I did was search for animal shelters near my house and followed the directions to become a volunteer. For the one near my house, the whole process took about three months, but every shelter does it differently.
If spending time with animals does not sound exciting to you, then maybe helping others gain knowledge will. This activity is cleaner and quicker for people who do not have much time during the week.
An organization called “School On Wheels” helps children and teenagers who are homeless and thus behind in their education because of how many days they cannot make it to school. They enlist all types of people from teachers to students that can help them catch up. For only one hour a week, the tutor will help their student with all the homework they don’t understand, and, if time permits, the tutor can even assign their own homework. Getting to know the students is very rewarding as they open up more and more as each week passes on. Due to safety issues, the students and tutors must meet in a public setting.
The process to become a tutor is a little tedious but it is worth it. Aspiring tutors must fill out an application, take an easy test and attend an orientation. After, the volunteer coordinator will match up the tutors and students. Once you meet your student, you can exchange contact information and schedule future meeting times and locations.
Another popular community service activity is volunteering at the soup kitchen. During the holidays, where most of us enjoy cooking and eating with family and friends, others are going hungry. These months always remind me of those people that go without food every day during the year.
Finding a place to volunteer your time is not hard at all. Simply search on the Internet when and where soup kitchens are hosted and contact the coordinator. The site that has been extremely helpful in finding opportunities to give my time has been volunteermatch.org. Simply enter in your city and find matches ranging from hospice care to reading tutors to hospital gift shop cashier. You can even specify your search to the exact field you would like to work in such as disabled, environment, homeless or veterans. There are so many different organizations that need our time to allow them to further their good deeds.
Even if you don’t have any obligation to volunteer, it is still incredibly rewarding to see the needs of your community and know that you can make a small difference with what you have been given. If it is knowledge, then tutor; compassion, then feed the homeless or take care of the animals; social skills, then keep the elderly company. Whatever you have, use it for good and you will also feel good.