Volunteering Can Transform Your Life

BlogHer Original Post

About 12 years ago my life hit a rough patch. I was in a job that wasn't using my skills, and wasn't going anywhere. My boyfriend had broken up with me. Turning 30 wasn't far away. I wasn't feeling so hot.

I started volunteering at a San Francisco based arts education organization, Streetside Stories. The program teaches autobiographical writing in Bay Area public schools using storytelling (oral, written, digital).

One or two mornings per week I would ride the bus to a public middle school and help students write a story about their life. It was the highlight of my week. Not only did hearing their stories help me put mine in a different perspective, it was fun!

After volunteering for about 6 months, Streetside asked me if I could do some subbing for their instructors; after about a year they offered me a job. I ended up working there for six years. Many of the friendships I made with staff members then I still have today. I met my husband during that time as well.

I think my experience at Streetside is why I'm such a big proponent of volunteering. I believe that it can bring magical changes into your life. The changes might not be as dramatic as mine, but volunteering will transform you in some way.

Next week, April 19-25, is National Volunteer Week. What better time to start looking for a volunteer opportunity? Sites like VolunteerMatch, Volunteer Solutions, Servenet.org, Social Actions, Transitions Abroad, One Brick, Network for Good, Idealist, HandsOn Network, GuideStar, Global Vounteers and 1-800 Volunteer.org are great places to look for opportunities.

You might think you don't have time to volunteer, but volunteering can take many forms: in person, virtual, long-term, one-time, during a vacation, etc. You can also volunteer in your own community, rather than with an organization, by doing things like taking care of a friend's child once a week, or running errands for an elderly neighbor.

Have you had a transformative experience from volunteering? I'd love to hear about it.

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Related posts and articles
Volunteering Generous Job Search Strategy by Rachel Emma Silverman on the WSJ Blogs.
Unexpected Payoffs: The Benefits of Volunteering by Lane Wallace on No Map. No Guide. No Limits.
5 Reasons I Love to Volunteer by Roger Carr of Everyday Giving.
Benefits of Volunteering on Energize Inc.

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Britt Bravo, also blogs at Have Fun * Do Good and is a Big Vision Consultant

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