Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Volunteering: benefits everyone!!!

Ever since my family immigrated to Seattle from Moscow, Russia, I have volunteered my time for various organizations and causes. In High School and College I tutored math and reading to students ranging in age from elementary school to college level. I was also a tutor for the Economics Department at the University of Washington.

When I moved to D.C. area, I wanted to find opportunities where I could help others through my skills and time. What I found is that most of the time, by volunteering my time, not only do I help those in need, but I also enrich my own life.

Volunteering helps you forget about the issues in your own life, while you are helping someone in need. It also gives you a great chance to meet new people, learn about new organizations, show off your skills and have fun!

Yes, have fun! All you need to do is choose organizations that are involved in the issues you care about or the organizations that require the skills you have. For example, I love cooking and anything that deals with food, thus I often volunteer at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center. Washington DCJCC has a program called Hunger Action: together with other volunteers I prepare meals for hundreds of homeless people. Other opportunities include gathering food at USDA (the Hebrew term for it is gleaning), volunteering at a food bank, etc. Please check the link above for more information.

You can also sign up with Idealist.org, and receive daily emails listing various volunteering opportunities in areas of your interest. That is exactly how I learned about Children's Law Center. Last week they held the 6th annual Helping Children Soar gala at the Kennedy Center and needed volunteers the day of the event to give directions, hand out programs, etc. After I provided directions for about an hour and a half, I had a chance to actually attend the event, enjoy free food and drink and, obviously, more importantly hear the inspirational speech of Kenya Douglas.

Another memorable volunteering opportunity was through Peace x Peace. I helped at their first ever New Voices at The Table event held at the Embassy of Kuwait! Not only did I have a chance to dress up, but when else would I have a chance to see the Embassy of Kuwait (which was absolutely beautiful), mingle with people who dedicate their lives to helping other women, and have a wonderful dinner (I know it sounds like it's all about the food)?

Another great thing about volunteering, is that often by volunteering your time, you get something in return. This is especially great for those of you who are short on money, but have free time and would like to attend cultural events. For example, by volunteering at the Washingon Jewish Film Festival, I received free movie tickets for each volunteering event I completed; the same applies to their literary programs! Also, last year I volunteered at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertainment Show. In return for 3 hours of my time and "work," I received free entrance to the show, met Paula Deen's sons, and enjoyed samples availabe from various vendors. 2007 show is coming up!

Other volunteering highlights for me include painting murals at several elementary schools and being the day of event volunteer for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

October is the official volunteering month: find some free time in your busy schedules and VOLUNTEER! I promise you will find it rewarding :)

3 comments:

Jen said...

Such a goodie-goodie

M said...

Hi Olga!

I work for Peace X Peace and remember you from that first gala event. Thanks for your help AND thanks for encouraging everyone to follow your example of volunteering. Volunteers and active members are what make Peace X Peace grow!

Thanks again!
Molly

PamN said...

Hi Olga - I was just sitting here worrying about my lack of new business after our move to SC, but now you've given me a way to think about filling some of my abundant spare time - thanks!