Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – Volunteering Everywhere in Every Way

Name: Elora Swanson
From: Tallahassee, FL
Grade: 11
School: Lawton Chiles High School
Votes: 0

Choosing to volunteer can mean more than just donating your time to
a homeless shelter, or helping in the community garden. I chose to
volunteer through youth ministry at my church, through caring for the
animals in my community center, and through helping with natural
disaster relief efforts. Donating an hour of my time each week to my
church as an aide in third grade Sunday classes has brought me so
many new experiences both in my faith and in my life. Seeing the kids
learn about their religion is more than just teaching them
traditions, it’s initiating them into our family as a parish, giving
them a sense of belonging, and passing on our culture. Before my
family moved, I helped clean out cages and replenish food for a
variety of animals in my community recreation center called The Lodge
in Tampa, FL. Here, they had a program where kids of the neighborhood
could come and interact with the animals and learn about the exotic
faraway places they came from. Some of the animals were native, like
rabbits, while others were wild, like the Bearded Dragon lizard
called Fred, or the hedgehog called Sonic. Volunteering as a
missionary, also, has helped show me the power of what a helping hand
can do. I attended a mission trip in the summer of 2015 in New
Orleans with my church, where we helped repair the houses that still
suffer damage from hurricane Katrina. Getting to help the poor and
help rebuild their homes and see the gratitude in their eyes from
such a small act of care has humbled me. The residents seemed to not
want mansions, they really wanted their roofs not to leak, and to
have windows without cracks.

While being a volunteer is a fantastic experience for the conscience,
it does come with challenges. Some such challenges I’ve experienced
are overcoming anxiety, and learning to work with teams. I have
always experienced anxiety around others in fear that I won’t be
accepted. I have been an introvert since a young age. Volunteering is
not only a wonderful cause, but also a fantastic way to find common
ground and make true friends. The most satisfying part of
volunteering, to me, is the “spider web effects” of your
work. Getting to see how one small act of kindness spirals to touch
multiple people and lighten their day is the best aspect of
volunteering. Through volunteering, I have learned humility,
gratitude for what I have, and compassion towards those less

In the future, I endeavor to look for ways to make volunteering
easier, and to eradicate the fear of liability that obstructs so many
opportunities where youth could be volunteering. The term “forward
looking” is similar to progressive, meaning to continue to move
in my desired direction with gusto. I see volunteering as forward
looking because it shows us the power of abnegation and the freedom
of selflessness.

Join our Facebook group "Volunteers for a Better World".