By Ali Khan (YES 2018-2019, Pakistan, hosted by Greenheart in Yakima, WA)
I have always thought of volunteering as a great way to help the community. Little did I know it leaves an everlasting impact on the person and the society. Coming to the United States and volunteering for different organizations has opened my eyes and made me realize the great importance of volunteering in a community. I got to know people from different walks of life and this has only been possible because of volunteering. Volunteering is a perfect way to give back to a community. I currently have 77 hours of community service and I want have more than 100 hours before I my exchange year ends.
My volunteering experiences in the United States have been great. I have loved every moment and I will continue to volunteer throughout the rest of my exchange year. I have volunteered many times at Camp Hope, a homeless shelter. I met people who have struggled a lot in their lives and learned their life stories. Because of Camp Hope I realized that every person deserves a second chance and we should help the people who want to change themselves, but don’t have the resources to do so. This experience is by far the most amazing part of my exchange year. I have helped the people at Camp Hope by giving them hope and telling them that if they are willing to change their lives, they will surely succeed. I never thought this experience would change my mentality so much and would make me more thoughtful in my community. Volunteering here has changed my life, and I will definitely volunteer at a place like Camp Hope when I go back home. Simply put, I have loved spending my time at Camp Hope and I am glad that I got to meet so many loving and caring people.
I have also volunteered at several other places including a Church Security Conference. I learned how to be on look out and help in case of an emergency. This conference taught me how to help my host community if something bad happens and it also spread awareness in the community. I loved being in the conference, helping people out with different things, and being a part of something big. I have made up my mind to teach people these techniques and spread awareness about such things when I go back to my country.
The volunteering experience that really moved me was Christmas shopping for underprivileged kids. We took about 200 kids from an elementary school shopping at Walmart. They were given $75 by the church to shop for Christmas presents. I helped kids choose what they wanted to buy. Seeing all the kids laughing and picking out clothes made my day. This was one of the best volunteering experiences I have had so far. Helping the community in this way was really great. The reactions I saw were absolutely amazing. Before that day, I had never thought about the lives of underprivileged kids and the struggles they go through everyday. I realized how helping kids with small things, such as clothes, can transform their lives. I am looking forward to going back home and applying the same techniques to help and change the lives of kids who need help and a guiding hand in their lives. One of my goals when I go back home is to change the lives of underprivileged kids and I am glad that I got to realize this through volunteering.
I recently won a Greenheart trip to Hawaii and got to volunteer at the wonderful sandy beaches of Oahu. We volunteered with 808 Cleanups, an alliance of volunteers dedicated to making Hawaii cleaner and safer. We cleaned up 263 lbs of metal and bonfire debris. Beach pollution is a big threat to both marine life and humans. We should be more careful not to pollute the sea water and the beaches we visit. I had no idea that the small things matter and even the smallest nail can cause a life threatening injury. I’m glad that I got to volunteer with 808 Cleanups and become more responsible towards the welfare of the environment.
Volunteering in the United States has changed me in a lot of ways. It has created a feeling of responsibility inside me. It has made me more aware of the problems in the society and how to tackle them. These experiences have brought a lot of changes in the way I think about people and I am really glad that I got to volunteer during my stay in the United States. I will continue to volunteer for the rest of my exchange year.