Twenty-three years ago, my family and I immigrated to the United States from Vietnam through a sponsorship from the YMCA. We came here without any possessions or a dime in our pockets. With the help of volunteers and the generosity of donors, my parents were able to find jobs, procure clothing and basic household items, and learn basic English. My family and I would not be where we are today if it weren’t for volunteers giving their time, efforts, and kindness to help my family.
I’ve been fortunate enough to back to my community in various ways. My first volunteer experience was when I was 9 and my mother and I would drive one hour to this Buddhist temple to serve children and the elderly. From then on, volunteering has always been a part of my life. I’ve volunteered with nursing homes, group homes for children, food banks and shelters, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, cleaning up local beaches and parks, and so much more! One of my favorite volunteer experiences has been with School on Wheels, an organization that provides academic tutoring for children that are homeless or transitioning through homes. Through School on Wheels, I found the Asian Pacific Women’s Center, a temporary shelter for women and children that are victims of domestic violence. The personal connections and memories I’ve made with those students, women, and children are some of my most favorite possessions.
Volunteering not only teaches one to be sympathetic, open-minded, and acquire new skills, but gives the opportunity to interact with some amazing people with amazing stories. Volunteering is under-appreciated at times and misunderstood at others, but once you find an organization and/or type of volunteer work you love, it will be well worth it.
I know from firsthand experience the importance of volunteering-- both as a volunteer and as a receipt of volunteer-based actions. It is life-changing. Thank you volunteers for your time, efforts, and kindness.