Seems like everyone needs volunteers these days. As someone with kids in school, college students to fulfill service hours for my courses, and running a nonprofit which survives on volunteers, I am constantly in need or being needed to volunteer. We live in a busy world with busy people. Technology has catapulted us into light speeds of tight schedules. There seems to be "no time" for many to do much of anything outside taking care of themselves, or their families and working. Is it possible to let loose and make the time to serve others? Why should we?
Research shows us that volunteering can combat depression,lower blood pressure, increase those "feel good" hormones and decrease stress. All without popping a pill and it's free! But, where does volunteering take us?
We are all on our own journeys. Journeys that lead us many different places. People enter and exit your life to bring meaning and awareness about the world around you. Sometimes if we just let go, take the time to help out someone in need, we find that we are not only having a positive impact on others...but, also on ourselves.
This is called volunteering.
This weekend at the STEAM Studio, I was once again reminded of how helping out someone you may or may not know can have a lasting impression. We hosted an incredibly bright group of youth through the HALO Foundation. These teenagers are currently homeless, yet their positive attitudes and excitement to explore were not only exciting to watch, but rewarding to work with. They learned new skills through coding/programming, and how to express their creativity by designing their own dream room.
Here are what some of the volunteers had to say and points we were reminded of throughout our time together:
- Open Up
"I always enjoy working with HALO, because the kids have so many experiences that I didn't have at that age and their views and experiences of the world are quite different from my own. Getting to share how we think about design and architecture felt like opening them up (as brief as it was) to another tool for their toolkit. It was really a treat to see their imaginations run and discover how 'dope' a space could be." Grace Phillips, Gould Evans Architect
- Just Come
"When I showed up to volunteer at the STEAM studio yesterday, I thought I would be buddying up with a teenager to practice coding. However, when less students showed up than expected, I was given a new task. There was a need to organize the closet of materials that the students use for projects, and I happily accepted the challenge. Organization has always been important to me, because I think that having things in neat order can make any life challenge seem more manageable. A clean and uncluttered space allows me to clear my mind and breathe a little easier. Part of teaching will be remaining flexible, and my volunteer experience helped me put that into practice." Trang Bui, Kappa Delta Pi Member, Department of Education Graduate Student
- Someone May Surprise You
"They were engaged with something they didn't know how to do (coding and sketching) and the glimpse of the vulnerability spoke to me deeper than anything else. Seeing them be uncomfortable or unsure of themselves but putting themselves out there with strangers was impressive. While none showed enthusiasm at the start, I was thrilled with the amount of times I heard "this is dope". Luckily, I know that is a compliment! What I also appreciated was one young man being excited to earn a certificate after 1 hour of coding and wanted to share it on Facebook. I'm glad sharing something academic that he was successful at proved to be worthwhile." Jana Burnside, Department of Education Graduate Student, Rockhurst University
- Grateful and Not Taken for Granted
"In hindsight, there was great poignancy in these kids’ ideas, drawing dream rooms that are at once very removed from their day to day existence, and at the same time, extremely indicative of the fears and struggles that they face on a day to day basis. We have to remind ourselves what it must be like to be in their shoes, having woken up that morning in a homeless shelter. We all felt very connected during the event, but thinking more deeply about their ideas tells us how far apart our existences really are. We all need to be thankful for our blessings." David Reid, Gould Evans Architect and Designer of the STEAM Studio
After our new friends left the STEAM studio, Aubony Chalfant, a HALO Center Facilitator explained that she had a hard time convincing them to come that morning. She said this was typical of teenagers when encouraging them to try new things. But, she shared that none of them wanted to leave and asked when they could come back. We all agreed that we didn’t want to them to leave either, and look forward to being together again.
Volunteering may take you next door, across town or to another country. Whatever you are chosen to do, whoever you choose to be with, no matter how big or how small, volunteering benefits both parties. It's not a formula, it's a feeling. You will walk away with a healthier attitude, a more open mind and making a difference in someone's life...especially your own.
It's a big deal.
"We all need somebody to lean on..."