Name: Maria Vasilj
From: San Antonio, Texas
School: Earl Warren High School
Back home, in my country, volunteering is a word you can rarely hear. It is just not part of social life. And I can partially understand why. My country is very small, unorganized and poor. In the mist of their own
struggles, injustice and problems people have no strength or resources to help others.But here, in America, it is everywhere. Wherever you go you are offered to give back to your community by volunteering. Flyers are everywhere and there are even whole websites dedicated to matching you with volunteer opportunities that are perfect for you.
Before I came to America as an exchange student I was told how I should volunteer, share my time with my host community and at the same time be an ambassador of my county. I was excited. This was something new and different for me and I couldn’t wait to start. I decided to try different areas of volunteering. I didn’t want to limit myself to just one. I like meeting new people and I love challenges. First I was teachers assistant at the Sunday school at my church. My host family recommended me to try this, so I did. I liked working with the little ones. They often have more wisdom to share with us than we do with them. They train our patience but also teach us to me simple and how to love unconditionally. After that I had a chance to help a family move houses. This was a special experience for me. People I
didn’t know welcomed me with smiles and let me carry their lives stuffed into the cardboard boxes. I felt honored and grateful that they gave me a chance to help them and be a part of this big event in
their lives. Next volunteering experience for me was Goodwill. There also I felt like I was among family and friends. Whenever I needed help, directions or explanation somebody was there ready to help me.
Although I was just sorting out clothes and putting them on hangers I felt special. Through volunteering I was reminded that when you give you actually receive. Dedicating your time, skills, talents, will and
love to help others you grow and improve into a better friend, community member, citizen and finally a better person.
I also had a chance to volunteer at a Native American festival, at the Battle of Flowers parade in San Antonio, in a Nursing Home, at a middle school band festival and few others. In 10 months of my exchange year I completed about 100 hours of volunteering. With each hour I became more mature and responsible, more aware of the world I am surrounded by and more determined to do my part to make a change. Volunteering greatly shaped me and motivated to look for a career that will allow me to help others and make positive changes in my community. I learned that we are the happiest when people around us are happy too.