Volunteering can be a rewarding experience, with benefits for those who lend a helping hand and the communities they serve.
According to Helpguide.org, some of the surprising benefits to volunteering include physical and psychological benefits, potential for career advancement, being connected to others and feelings of fulfillment in your life. These benefits can be felt immediately after you have taken that first step by committing to help others. One of the best distractors from your own problems is to stop focusing on yourself.
I still remember working as a novice nurse on the night shift with a nurse who shared with me that she spends her vacations as a missionary nurse. I remember thinking, “Wow, I want to be like her when I grow up.” But as the years passed, the focus outside the walls of my hospital and local community grew further away. But through the efforts of my local church, I was reintroduced to a call to serve. So for the past four years, I have dedicated at least one week of my vacation time to providing health care to the underprivileged in areas outside of my community.
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My first experience was in the province of Carries in Haiti. We adopted a village there and provided ongoing support through health and dental care, in addition to providing the much needed support of water wells, clothing and food. During that first mission trip, I remember trying to be the nurse I am in the United States. The most common conditions we encountered were severe hypertension and vaginal infections. But the simplicity of their community and limited resources made these common conditions extreme health challenges. We have saved lives in areas where people die from very treatable and preventable conditions due to their lack of access.
This complete shift in paradigms revealed many moments of reflection into issues I had considered a problem in my life. This prompted me to reprioritize the matters of my life both personally and professionally.
Professor Allen Omoto, of Claremont Graduate University, states the main reasons people volunteer are to gain understanding, esteem and personal development, as well as for the sense of community and humanitarianism.
Serving others in this capacity has changed me in the following ways: I complain less, I serve more, I am much more grateful and, now, I see the beauty in the little things every day. Spiritually, I was renewed and came back more focused on the true objective of my life. One of the biggest rewards I take away from this yearly venture is that it provides a fasting period from my daily action-packed life. There is no cell service, no internet, no cable TV, no e-mails, no traffic, no calendar juggling. And furthermore, upon my return, I am very mindful to evaluate what I reintroduce into my life, so I get to reset my priorities annually. The miraculous stories I have lived as a result of making myself available to provide care to the underserved have motivated me to maintain a commitment of service, locally and globally.
A few years ago in July, I volunteered at the Special Olympics. This and many other opportunities are made available through partnerships with Keck Medicine of USC.
All it takes is a simple “Yes I Will” to begin the journey of such a never-ending gift.
Looking to give back to the community? Try volunteering at one of our hospitals.
by Lisa Johnson
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting Keck Medicine of USC.