The Waco community is in need, with numerous opportunities to volunteer. The Baylor student population adds approximately 16,959 people to the Waco area, and the community should be able to reap the benefits of having such a large young adult population. Students must realize the power that volunteering has and how much one individual can help the community around them.
Each sorority and fraternity has specific organizations that they support throughout the school year, and Baylor hosts events like Steppin’ Out, our bi-annual outreach day, each semester. These efforts are good — they make a difference and encourage students to be selfless for a day or month of their lives. However, the system used for “off and on” volunteers tends to reassure a compulsory volunteer mindset instead of instigating a sense of need in students to continue doing charity work throughout their college careers and beyond.
Those who are in large organizations tend to volunteer in massive groups, making change quickly. These projects make a difference but don’t take advantage of having a large group willing to do work. Instead of one or two larger projects, it would be more beneficial to have the group split into smaller clusters. Each smaller group could then focus on a specific organization in need and become more involved, possibly by having weekly activities or long-term projects in the works.
In addition to the impact that outreach can have on a community, it can affect the volunteers themselves. According to research from the Corporation for National and Community Service, those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in their lives. It is unclear whether more active people tend to volunteer more or if volunteering helps cause fitness, but volunteering does lead to improved mental health in most cases, according to the study. While those who are older demonstrate higher health benefits from volunteering, it is understood that it is because it gives purpose to those going through a social change in their lives who need a purpose. Younger volunteers have less of a need for a purpose, but volunteering could help with social needs during the transition to a college lifestyle.
Students can be busy creatures, but finding the time to volunteer is easier than it may seem at first. Many service opportunities are available for a level of ages and skill sets and range in hours.
The city of Waco offers many day-to-day and weekly service opportunities. These are listed on their website and often require little to get started. Waco is not the only place that could use a hand, but finding a way to connect in the community that is called home for three to six years is important. This can also impact the choice to find service opportunities in future locations.
When students choose to be involved of their own volition, without the pressure of a resume filler or service requirement, there is room for a greater change. Hopefully this change will impact those who receive and create it, allowing for volunteering to be a part of their future as well as their present lives.