Why Be A Holiday Volunteer?

Next time you have a couple of weeks off, why not ditch the beach and take the less trodden road? Volunteering is a great way to spend the holidays, whether you spend it planting trees in your local park or handing out books to kids in Africa. It’s not the most glamorous way to spend your vacation, but it’s certainly more meaningful—and very much in keeping with the spirit of the holidays.

Most holiday volunteer opportunities last a month or so at most, but many people end up doing it for much longer, coming back every year or even making a career out of it. This is because doing something out of goodwill, not just fame, money or progress, leaves you with a good feeling and makes you want to do more. Even if it’s a one-off gig, it’s nice to know that you’ve made a difference in people’s lives, no matter how small.

What’s great about volunteering is that it’s open to anyone. Some tasks do require a bit of training; for example, you need at least a brief medical background to join a medical mission. But there’s a place in it for everyone. You can do administrative work such as filling out forms and taking calls, or be more active and help carry boxes, clean tables, and distribute supplies. Every little thing makes a difference.

Holiday volunteering can also be a good learning experience. While most people learn professional skills in the classroom or on the job, as a volunteer you can get the training without the pressure. Working in a classroom can give you pointers on working as a teacher, and joining a research team can come in handy if you’re thinking of working in the academe. Or if you’re not sure what you want to do, volunteering can lead you to a cause you’re passionate about and give you excellent career options, not to mention contacts.

Some volunteer work may allow you to travel. If you like to get out of town during the holidays, this may be worth a look. Volunteering abroad opens you up to a different culture and way of life, and may give you a better appreciation of what you have back home. You may have to shoulder your own expenses, but the experience is often more than worth it. As they say, you don’t lose anything when you travel—you always come home with something no one can take away.

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