Volunteering: Helping with the Community Based Scholarship Essays.

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 If you have applied for a scholarship before, I am sure you must have come across questions like these: ‘’Describe a meaningful volunteer experience’’, ‘’Share a project you developed to change your community’’, ‘’How have you made a difference in your community’’, ‘’What do you think our country should do to foster unity’’, ‘’Describe a volunteering activity you conducted for your community’’, ‘’List your extracurricular activities’’.

Scholarships are sponsored by people who want to give back to the society; to help those who are unable to pay for their tuition fees due to the lack of financial funds to do so, through scholarship awards. It is only fair that they also look out for candidates who have also contributed to his/her community or even the world in one little way or the other and so, candidates of this kind are fished out using the community service essays. Most scholarships are awarded to students with exceptional community service experiences

Now imagine where you are having a great time filling out your scholarship application; uploaded your resume, transcripts and other necessary documents and then you get to the essay section, you write a great essay displaying your leadership qualities and then you get to the next essay requesting you to share a volunteer experience and what impact it had had on your life. Your fingers freeze on your keyboard and you are trying to think up any volunteering activity you have ever participated in, nothing comes to mind, not even a tiny detail. Now that’s bad isn’t it? You try to form a story but it just doesn’t sound right…what to do? Well I believe you can always make a change at any point in your life and this change (volunteering) is always a positive one you should try out.



WHAT DOES VOLUNTEERING MEAN

Volunteering in its simplest definition means giving your time, energy and effort to help improve someone/peoples’ lives or to stand up for a cause you are passionate about and follow through on it. You are to do all these from your heart without expecting a reward of any kind or even recognition. If you are given any of these, let it be out of appreciation not some sort of pay back scheme.
You could volunteer to be a sports coach, fundraiser, committee member, caregiver, animal welfare officer, gardener, driver, tutor or dog walker.

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE VOLUNTEERING

The very idea of volunteering can be very exciting and most individuals just want to jump into any volunteer activity without giving it a second thought. While this is nice, because vibrancy is one of the qualities required of volunteers, it is advisable to put into consideration some things before joining a volunteer team. We shall discuss some of the considerations here:

Your passion: 
Someone once asked me what I can do without getting paid and I replied, ‘‘taking care of children, writing and counseling’’. I love anything that relates with these three topics and I do not hesitate to help out if anyone needs my service especially with children and counseling. So you need to answer the question too, ‘’what can you do happily without expecting a reward for it’’ and if you can answer this question, you are on your first right step to volunteering.

Your skills and qualities:
Communication skills, leadership skills, persuasion skills, patience, empathy and so many other qualities and skills are needed when volunteering but you need to find a volunteer opportunity that matches your skills. You cannot be a caregiver taking care of children or old people if you are impatient in nature, you need to be extra sensitive to the needs of people to be able to work together with a team on poverty alleviation and you will need to love animals if you’re hoping volunteer as an animal welfare officer.

Your time:
Commitment is one of the watchwords of a volunteer. You have to be committed to the cause you are fighting for or the people you are helping. Commitment also means time. How long are you going to dedicate for you volunteer activities, most volunteer organization requires you to be available 24 hours a day while others may be flexible. Some might require your service for three months and you are not expected to return home until the time elapses. So you should know how much time you are willing to take off your personal and work life to dedicate to volunteering.

Expenses:
Do you have enough money to sustain yourself during your volunteer mission? Some organization provide some basic things for their volunteers such as food, drinks, clothing and accommodation while others leave the volunteers to take care of it totally. So you have to make sure you are financially prepared if you are to take care of your expenses.









BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING


The benefits of volunteering are so many. It spans both physical and mental. I remember a time I volunteered to be a registration officer at a conference, a day before that day, I was feeling emotionally down, more like being depressed. I actually wanted to forget about volunteering the next day, but somehow I pulled through that night and was able to attend the conference to carry out my volunteer roles. While carrying out my duties I felt so much better. I was happier and interacted with my fellow volunteers very well. I believe going out, changing environment and voluntarily helping out had an overall effect on my mental stability. The rewards of volunteering are far better than financial rewards. There are lots to be benefitted from volunteering, they are:

Gaining confidence
You are going out there to make an impact in your community, country and the world; that is something to give you a great deal of confidence. You are not being paid and you are going to be exposed to a lot of training and skill development. All these and more will help build your confidence.

Make a difference
You will have the opportunity to contribute to making a change you have always wanted.

Meet people
You get to meet people of diverse culture, class and family background. You can meet a lifelong friend there or probably someone who will help you in your career path.

Be part of a community
Volunteering can help you feel part of something outside your friends and family.

Learn new skills
Most volunteer organizations train volunteers for up to a month before sending them to their stations while other skills can be acquired during the mission.


Take on a challenge 
You find yourself doing things you never thought you could do prior to volunteering.

Have fun
You are definitely going to have fun no matter how serious you volunteer mission is

 Helps reduce stress
Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can be personally rewarding.

Get references
You can get quality references from fellow volunteers or supervisors.

QUESTIONS TO ASK VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS BEFORE VOLUNTEERING FOR THEM

What the role involves?

Whether you will have a supervisor or mentor to discuss your questions or concerns?

Whether you will receive any expenses to help pay for your travel and food costs?

What training is offered to help you do the role?

If there are any qualifications you can gain while volunteering?

Are there are insurance cover?







TYPES OF VOLUNTEERING

Community Volunteering
This is the type of volunteering you do in your immediate surrounding and can be undertaken as a personal project.


Ways to volunteer in your community
There are various ways you can volunteer in your community and they are:

Visiting homes for the elderly: 
There are lots of elderly people looking for someone talk to, go out with and so on. You can visit them, take them shopping, discuss politics or life issues with them. Whatever you choose to do, the goal is leaving them happier than you met them.

Volunteer at schools or religious centers:
Help children get educated on various topics that might not be included in their curriculum. Teach them topics about life, character and keys to success.  Be a role model to children; they love when they have someone they can look up to and tell their fears to, you don’t have to be a parent to do that. You can organize a retreat camp for them too to help them make good friends and learn a thing or two.

You can organize a yard sale for charity
If you have a great talent in business or marketing, then consider organizing a yard sale in your community where different things can be sold and you can dedicate the proceeds to a local charity.


Coach a local youth team
Lots of children may have sport skills but no coach to hone those skills especially when they attend schools that cannot afford the services of one. You can help them out.


Tutor a student
You can teach people for free on any subject you are familiar with.

Feed the Hungry
Hunger is one of the problems faced by people in the world. You can bring out a day to cook and serve hungry people or beggars living around your community.

Environmental Sanitation
You do not have to wait for the people living in your neighborhood to decide on a date to clean up the environment; you can decide to do this on your own.


Volunteer at a hospital
While you may not be a medical expert or even a nurse, there are certainly other ways you can help out in a hospital like; helping with food services, pushing wheelchairs, keeping the patients company, doing the dishes and so many other roles you can find within the hospital.





Residential volunteering

This type of volunteering requires you to leave your home for a week, months or years. They are often sponsored by organizations especially the non-profit organizations. Some can be international while others are local. They also ensure that they provide the basic amenities of life for the volunteers during their stay. Examples of such organizations are:
Volunteer services Overseas(vso)
UN Volunteer Programme.
Challenges Worldwide.
InterVol
NIDOS.
World Service Enquiry.

Board Volunteering
There are many organizations that are non profit and so most of their funds are solicited for. It is often impossible to pay people to work in such places as they might not be able to pay them so this is where the board volunteers come in, to help them run the administration of the company without expecting a reward of any kind.

While cash is accepted in organisations serving the needy, time and effort is just as important. Volunteering can help you in so many ways one of them is being able to write a flawless essay on your experience when applying for a scholarship. Do something new, be a volunteer today!

VSO Nigeria International Citizen Service Programme. Apply now to Volunteer!

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