“Did you attend the Christmas party at the orphanage with the National Honor Society last Friday? ” asked Angelica as she walked with Jacoya to lunch in the cafeteria. “I did,” Jacoya confirmed with a nod of the head, “but I didn’t expect to have as much fun as I did. The kids were actually really cool and were thankful that we were able to bring them gifts in addition to the ones they received from the orphanage’s staff. ”
“Gifts? ” Angelica questioned. Orphanages have the money to buy the children gifts? ” Stifling a laugh, Jacoya sat down with her lunch-bag. “Of course they do. Although, they cannot afford as many presents as most of our families, they are not as different as we thought. In fact, I think I’m going to go back. I actually made a couple of friends. You should come, too. I really think you’d like them. ” Taking a bite into her sandwich, Angelica secretly smiled at the thought.
This is just one example of how youth volunteers dedicate themselves to assisting others by having “a desire to become more internally aware” and “to understand what [is] ‘out there” (Dykhuis 18). Specifically, volunteering is the voluntary devotion of time and service towards a person or community in hope of promoting economic, social, physical, and emotional benefits. Areas such as “health, welfare, housing, education, recreation, and rehabilitation” are commonly associated with volunteering.
In these areas, volunteers provide support, information, and resources to specific programs with differing goals. Although youth volunteers act outside of their “normal responsibilities to [give] service to a not-for-profit cause,” they can acquire benefits from volunteering by being satisfied with helping others and becoming familiar with issues within today’s society (Spiegel and Safrit 1).
By providing pportunities for knowledge, experience, community involvement, and social unity, volunteer based programs motivate youth volunteers to become better citizens in the future. According to Mark Creyton, Director of Education, Research and Policy, organizations urge younger generations to volunteer because of the passion, creativity, and enthusiasm they bring to the programs they take part in. For example, youth volunteers promote organizations through social media platf orms due to their enthusiasm to share events with friends.
Consequently, volunteer based organizations use technology and the media as a recruitment method, which continuously expands the concept of younger generations taking initiative (qtd. in Nicol 4). Although most youth volunteers get started in service work for academic hours, resume boosts, or family and friends, almost all youth volunteers continue in volunteering at an older age due to the habits they form as a child. This allows many volunteers to reap the long-term benefits of assisting others.
In fact, according to the Americans’ Changing Lives case study, “in general, volunteers report greater life satisfaction and better physical health than do non-volunteers” (Corporation for National and Community Service 6). Although, some say that volunteer based programs are not beneficial because they promote stereotypes, negative experiences, and an extension between different economic backgrounds among volunteers and locals. They argue that most volunteers lack a clear perception of another’s situation.
Additionally, they say that society shelters youth volunteers from unpleasant reality behind poverty and devastation. Consequently, negative emotions such as guilt and anger can result in awkward or unpleasant experiences for the volunteer and community (Dykhuis 16). They also contend that a limited understanding and experience with migrant or lower socioeconomic volunteers causes the overrepresentation of affluent areas among youth volunteers (Nicol 4). However, such arguments are short-minded and do not take into account the overall benefit of volunteering.
Although Joann Pappas, adviser of the National Honor Society since 2003, sympathizes that “helping the poor or sick can be depressing,” she argues that acquiring a sense of reality can end stereotypes, reduce recurring, negative experiences, and unify the youth of different economic backgrounds through a similar cause. Instead of younger generations being blind to the unique environments around them, they will be able to develop and acknowledge the aspects of reality that they, initially, could not. Although most of the opposing statements have truth to them, they lack insight into the future.
Without the benefits of volunteering, younger generations will never overcome the barriers that hold them back from becoming more knowledgeable and compassionate citizens. Although some say that volunteer based programs promote stereotypes among volunteers and locals, volunteering diminishes existing stereotypes by providing opportunities for improvements in awareness and identity. According to columnist for The Globe and Mail, Judith Timson, “[volunteering] is about the volunteer’s personal growth [into] becoming a global citizen” (qtd. in Dykhuis 16).
Because stereotypes already exist within today’s society, volunteers can gain a better understanding of each stereotype through service work. For example, students during a case study on volunteering in Guatemala were able to realize that the idea they had about poverty did not go with the reality of it. The students were also able to realize that most stereotypes made about the poor are untrue (Dykhuis 18). In essence, volunteering exposes the truth to existing stereotypes and allows youth volunteers to reconsider their perception of others.
However, some say that volunteer based programs promote negative experiences for volunteers and locals due to a volunteer’s lack of knowledge of a host’s situation or environment. Although this statement can be true, it does not take into account human advancement—the ability to learn. Someone does not grow up knowing how to pay bills or write essays, until others show them how. The same principle applies for volunteering. If volunteers prepare and get informed correctly, the benefits can outweigh potential, negative occurrences.
In fact, organizations such as Left Right Think Tank support the investment in “research initiatives aimed at better understanding the impact value and diversity of the volunteering community” to make sure that volunteers prepare for situations that are uncustomary to them (Nicol 4). Additionally, Pappas states that volunteers are able to acquire perience the longer they offer help. This can lead to an increase in the benefits of the volunteer and host. Because of new knowledge, volunteers are able to turn once awkward or unpleasant situations into learning experiences for future use.
Despite these advances, some believe that volunteering can extend the economic barrier between volunteers and locals. However, according to Sally Brown, volunteering brings these groups together and unites communities through bonding and “mutual understanding” (qtd. in Dykhuis 16). In fact, Pappas states that many youth volunteers get started in service work through church or school. Consequently, these closely knit programs encourage friendship and address areas of each community’s concern (Dykhuis 16).
This allows communities to come together through a similar cause whether that be “illiteracy, teen pregnancy, high crime rates, or drug abuse” (Spiegel and Safrit 14). Due to the different opportunities for community service, volunteers are able to understand the barriers between affluent and limited resource areas and use their knowledge of these barriers for further personal and communal growth. In essence, volunteer based programs motivate youth volunteers to become better citizens in the future by providing a foundation for personal growth, knowledge, and experience.
These benefits can leave a lasting impression on the younger generations. Although most of the opposing views deal with negative interactions among volunteers and locals, Alex McLaren states that “participating in volunteering efforts reaffirms the notion that people can work together for the common good and [develop] a sense of community and belonging between volunteers and the… individuals and groups they serve” (qtd. in Nicol 3). Without charitable acts of the youth, future citizens would not comprehend the aspects of each migrant group or stereotype they place on others.
Additionally, relationships among communities would suffer, and negative experiences would continue to leave awkward impressions on society. Without the life lessons that volunteering instills within younger generations, the motivation to have a mutual understanding of others would vanish. In essence, communities would grow farther apart and a decrease in the “desire to become more internally aware” would hurt society’s future citizens more than protect them from stereotypes, negative experiences, and different economic backgrounds.