Right about now, many of us are making the same New Year’s resolutions we made a year ago. Eat better. Exercise more. And so on.
Not inspired? Try linking your desire to improve your life with your ability to improve someone else’s life. Consider these common New Year’s resolutions and how volunteering can help you keep them.
Be healthy. Doing good is good for you! A growing body of research links volunteering and benefits to mental and physical health, like reducing stress and the risk of hyper-tension, building self-esteem, and strengthening social connections.
Lose weight. Volunteering can keep you moving and burning extra calories. Consider helping out with a 5K race, packing meals for food insecure families or getting involved with kids’ fitness and nutrition initiatives to inspire you to move more and eat better. Plan to run with us in September at our Moonlight Madness Run at Bailey Park.
Spend less/save more. Share your money-smart ways with people who may be struggling to make ends meet. Improve a family’s financial security by volunteering to help plan and teach financial literacy classes or prepare tax returns.
Spend more time with family. Volunteering as a family teaches children the importance of helping others, teamwork, and generosity and builds stronger connections between family members and your community. Check out these great ideas for engaging kids and teens in service and volunteering.
Travel. Volunteering away from home expands your horizons further than leisure travel. Being exposed to different cultures is also good for the communities you serve. International UN Volunteers deploys thousands of volunteers from more than 150 countries across the globe. Go Overseas and Volunteer Forever offer reviews of programs that accept international volunteers.
Read more. Kids who develop strong reading skills at a young age are more likely to succeed in school, work and life. Reading with and tutoring young students is one of the very best ways to volunteer your time and energy.
Whatever you resolve to do in 2018, make it a happier New Year for you and someone else by volunteering.
Written By: Janelle Touma
August may seem like an awkward time to post about New Year’s resolutions, but for millions of college students the start of the school year holds greater significance than the change in calendar year. A new school year means a new chapter and a fresh start. It’s a chance to purge bad habits and replace them with better ones.
Typical school year’s resolutions usually relate to improving academic performance: a pledge to study harder, finish assigned readings, attend class more… That sort of thing. Sometimes students set health-focused goals like eating healthier or vowing to use their free campus gym more (trust me, you will miss it when you graduate).
This year, in addition to your other school year’s resolutions, consider making a commitment to volunteer as a reader, tutor or mentor. Of course, just making a resolution is easy – staying committed is the tricky part.
Here’s a tip: sticking to a resolution is always easier when you do it with friends. Inviting your friends to get involved will increase your impact and make your volunteering experience more enjoyable. You may run into friends that are nervous about getting involved. If your friends are interested in joining the cause but are still apprehensive, it may help to know some of the most common excuses along with a few facts to rebut those claims:
- “I’m taking a lot of credits this semester! I don’t have time to volunteer.” I understand where you’re coming from. After all, school comes first and you don’t want to jeopardize your success by putting too much on your plate. But let’s take a closer look for a moment. There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming you get eight hours of sleep per night, you’re still left with 112 hours to be productive. Subtract from that your average weekly workload of 15 hours of class time plus two hours of studying for every credit hour you’re taking (which is probably generous) and you still have 67 hours at your discretion. Considering the fact that a recent study found the average college student watches 10 hours of television per day, it’s hard to imagine you can’t find an hour per week to give back.
- “I don’t know anything about kids, education or early literacy.” Who cares? Some of the simplest tasks, like reading a book to a preschooler or eating lunch with a sixth grader, can have a huge impact when you volunteer in a structured environment. The staff at your volunteer site will be able to help you if you have questions, and it’s unlikely they’ll put you in a situation you can’t handle. Come as you are!
- “I don’t know where to go to get involved.” We’ve got you covered. United Way’s website provides a listing of volunteer opportunities in your area. You can reach out to your local United Way to see if anything else is available. You can also reach out to the Student United Way on your campus and if there isn’t one, you can start one!
Most of all, let your friends know that you, your community, and the children in need of readers, tutors and mentors need them to volunteer. It’s going to take all of us working together to meet our bold goals for the future, and the power of students to make a difference will have a huge role in our success.
So set your school year’s resolution now and recruit your fellow students to join the call to action. For someone out there, it could be the most important resolution you make.