by Angie Miller
A year ago this summer my daughter and I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity in Hungary. I had wanted to take a family vacation to Europe, but as time drew nearer I started to feel like I needed an experience that was more impactful and meaningful. One that would leave me feeling fulfilled. More importantly I needed to provide my daughter, who was 21 at the time, with the same type of experience: One that would give her perspective and experience with other cultures, lifestyles, and socioeconomic statuses. I wanted to show her the impact we can all have when we put ourselves out there for others. Frankly, I needed those things as well. It had been a year since my mom had passed and I had not only lost my mom, but my role as a caregiver. I needed somewhere positive to put my flood of emotions and a constructive way to manage my pain. I knew that my daughter did too. I wanted hard work, and I wanted to know that whatever I did I was making a difference. So I started investigating volunteer opportunities through Habitat for Humanity because I love their mission. I also know that one of the greatest benefits of volunteering through their Global Village Program is that you get to immerse yourself in another culture and travel to another country, all while helping to provide a family in need with safe shelter. Not to mention, you get to join a team of individuals from all over the world, which is eye opening in and of it self. We spent nine days in Hungary. I learned to mix plaster (handling a power tool was the most fun), mud and tape (excruciating work), paint windows (a breeze), and my most memorable…crawl inside of an attic and lay insulation while donning a hazmat suit, helmet, and gloves, while it was over 90 degrees outside. My daughter and I, and little Jean from Singapore were the chosen ones for that job. Apparently being short and compact made us the perfect fit for that type of work.
I wouldn't change a thing about volunteering on that trip, and especially about sharing those days with my daughter. Volunteerism changes lives, and it’s not just the lives of those we help. In helping others we ultimately help ourselves along the way. We learn and grow and we become a better version of ourselves. Whether you volunteer five minutes or five hours away, in the U.S. or outside of it, at the food shelter or building shelter for someone else, I cannot emphasize enough how truly impactful it is.
If you’re still not convinced, here are my five top reasons to volunteer:
- It’s confidence building. You learn how to perform tasks you might not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn. Who would have thought I could manage a power tool and lay insulation?
- You meet other people who are like-minded and have positive intentions.
- You gain perspective. You realize that your worries often pale in comparison to the worries of those who have no shelter or don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
- You have the opportunity to share your volunteer experiences with your children, spouse, friends, and anyone who might benefit from the possibilities of giving their time, energy, and expertise.
- Last but not least it’s a workout, and who doesn’t love an unexpected opportunity to burn calories? When you volunteer, especially when you build a house, you move your body in a functional manner. You spend your days squatting, twisting, bending, and reaching, and you’re active for extended periods of time. You use muscles you didn’t know you had, and you recognize the power, agility, and strength of your body.
Wishing you the best in your volunteer experiences, and in all opportunities to create a better life for you and the lives that you touch.
Angie Miller, M.S., is a fitness educator, university instructor, and Licensed Professional Counselor who blends her skills and expertise to empower individuals, mentally and physically, and provide them the tools they need to succeed. A veteran group exercise instructor and personal trainer, Angie is the star of acclaimed exercise DVD’s, including the Bedroom Body™ workout. Her passion for progressive education brought her to Northern Illinois University, where she teaches in the Dept. of Kinesiology & Physical Education. Outside of the university, she presents at fitness conventions worldwide and leads industry trainings as an AFAA Certification Specialist and Kettlebell Concepts Master Instructor. Angie writes for fitness journals and digital communities, and blogs for Collage Video. Connect with Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com