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What can one person do to make a difference in the world?

A lot, actually. It starts at home, in the community, and can have that beautiful butterfly effect around the globe. Think about it this way: You’re out running errands, and someone smiles at you rather than cutting you off in line. Wouldn’t that make you feel good, and probably more apt to smile at the next person or some other gracious deed rather than be irritable from being slighted that has the opposite ripple effect?

Let’s break it down further into the positive effects of volunteering on you, the individual, and the community at large.

The power of volunteering

1.    Creating a social network for positive change

When you help others, you’re naturally creating good vibes that tend to touch those around you in an intrinsically positive way. Not only are you cultivating new relationships with the people you’re helping in some cases, such as when mentoring or feeding the hungry, but also building strong ties to the community and with those you are volunteering with. Volunteering will thus build your social network for strong personal connections, as well as create a cache of people as professional references if you’re still interested in the workforce. Chances are, if you’re all helping in the same way, you have some similarities in common and thus volunteering is a great way to “find your people” while making a difference to the community.

2.    You have the power to change lives

Whether you are advocating for children’s rights and equality for girls around the globe, helping out at the local foodbank, fostering abandoned animals, or mentoring those in your field, you are making a difference in someone’s life. You are also giving them something more important: Hope in a better world because of people like you.

3.    Creating a positive ripple effect

We all talk about our jobs, it’s the nature of having one! So, when you’re volunteering for a cause, you’re automatically raising awareness around it—probably without even noticing that you’re doing it! Spreading the word whether to friends or on social media this way puts a spotlight on who you’re helping and can make a difference to that community; or in yours coming together to help out more. Kindness is contagious! Be both the solution and the inspiration to others.

The personal benefits of volunteering

From connection to confidence, volunteering has numerous positive benefits to the mind, body, and spirit. Volunteering, donating time or money, and mentoring are all known to trigger the release of dopamine, your brain’s feel good chemical. This “helper’s high” is just the beginning: volunteering also triggers higher self-esteem and thus the confidence to simply do more. Living with purpose in this way leads to feelings of fulfillment and empowerment, as well as increased gratitude. When you help those less fortunate, you gain perspective and appreciation for your own situation.

How to make a difference in your community: Start Small

Our planet has a lot of issues: water shortages, disease, extreme poverty, war, and food scarcity. It could feel overwhelming when finding a place to start helping. Start small!

1.    Do daily acts of kindness for those in your immediate community. This can range from paying for coffee for the person in the car behind you in the Starbucks line-up, to smiling at a stranger on the street.  

2.    Donate your money or time to an organization within your immediate community. No need to go build houses half-way across the globe just yet—there are plenty of people within our own cities that can benefit from your time and compassion.

3.    Pick one thing. You don’t have to try everything all at once! Choose what area of philanthropy interests you, and stick to it. The more you are passionate about something, the bigger difference you’ll make!

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