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Volunteering - the beauty of giving

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Ophelia Wu

We can only give when we come from a place of abundance. When we truly give, without asking for anything in return, or any agenda, it is the best feeling in the world. I believe every action comes with a consequence, and you truly reap what you sow: so if you reap goodness, you will receive goodness. Giving is a generous act that can only come from a place of love, abundance, and gratitude, and it's easier than it sounds. The more you give, the more you'll receive.

We often immediately relate to giving a donation or something material, but giving comes in many shapes and forms. We offer our time as volunteers; we share our kindness as we hold the door for a mother with her baby; we give our joy when we smile at the person next to us at the café; and we offer compassion when we give our time for a sad friend. These are all different forms of giving, little yet impactful. Never underestimate the power of a simple smile in the morning; it can easily brighten someone's day.

Gratitude magnified

It's easy, almost too easy, to just sign up for some monthly donations to charities or institutions where you barely remember you're donating, but when you donate by giving your time and effort, it takes you to another level. I began volunteering for a small NGO last year, and it has been the most fulfilling experience. The beauty of volunteering is that you decide how much time and effort you want to give. While doing so, every moment is meaningful. While measuring the impact of how much help you've offered is complex, the ripple effect generated is also unpredictable. When you commit yourself to a cause close to your heart, it gives you an insight into the real struggle that is happening out there, immediately inviting you to reflect on your own problems, making them seem irrelevant and insignificant. While we should not compare suffering, it allows you to be even more grateful for all the blessings and fortunes in life.

"Life works in mysterious ways, but one thing is for sure, you get what you give."

Social well-being

Suppose one is volunteering to seek external validation, recognition or even rewards. In that case, that is not giving; it's a trade or exchange and will not bring you joy. Giving is an art because it has to come from a place that is purely giving and letting go without knowing how little or much you have offered. When you volunteer, you're also making connections and collaborations; this benefits your social life and your self-awareness and creates meaningful bonds with like-minded people. It is rewarding because you have contributed to a collective support system positively impacting others' lives. One way or another, when you're giving your time to others, you're also opening doors for yourself, leading you to places you might not have even thought of.

As internationals, we often question the sense of belonging and yearning for a community where we share our values and support. Volunteering is a great way to make new connections and become part of a bigger community while giving your time, effort, compassion and kindness to those in need. For example, if you're volunteering to help refugees, these people struggle to find their identity and build a life in the same country you're living in. While you do that, through your devotion and commitment, you are, at the same time, finding your own identity in the very same country on another side of the story. You find a community you feel you can be part of.

Life works in mysterious ways, but one thing is for sure, you get what you give. So the beauty of giving is so much more than just giving, and it doesn't have to be a grand gesture. One simple ''good morning'', a smile, or a ''thank you'' will suffice; no act of kindness is too small. Always remember, we don't know what people are going through in their lives; if you're at a place where you can share and spread some joy, please do it; you might change someone's mind with that small act.

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