In life, many unforeseen circumstances and conditions can affect communities globally, such as famine, natural disaster, or lack of utilities such as heating and cooling. There are numerous organizations and initiatives that have been created in order to ensure that communities in need receive assistance. These service experiences not only strengthen communities and bonds, but strongly impact the individuals offering service efforts. Mission trips, food drives, and mentorship programs are all examples of community service that provide enriching experiences for every party involved.

The Need for Community Service

There is always the need for service in communities that may be underprivileged for various reasons, whether related to natural causes or community infrastructure. An example of an unprecedented situation where the importance of service was clearly shown, is the damage done to Puerto Rico by hurricane Irma in September of 2017. The hurricane was among the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic, and the effects were devastating to the citizens and infrastructure of Puerto Rico and islands around it. The island was left completely without power, and was left with very few resources. According to an article published by PBS, “Nearly all of the U.S territory’s 3.4 million residents need assistance recovering from the storm.” With a disaster such as this, there is no way that the citizens could restore their communities without external aid, which is where service and missionary efforts come into play. These efforts, made by organizations such as United for Puerto Rico, UNICEF, Global Giving, and International Medical Corps, contributed greatly to allowing the citizens of Puerto Rico to start rebuilding their communities. Because of the destruction of buildings, the ability of students to receive education was also impacted. Per an article published on Education Week by Madeline Will, several teachers from around the United States offered to, “Travel to the island to teach while schools and communities were rebuilt.”

Another issue that plagues communities globally is that of hunger. Food is a basic human need, and when individuals have zero or restricted access-it becomes an issue. This is why efforts such as food drives are so important. Non-perishable foods, such as canned fruits or suits are often donated to organizations who put together food drives and provide resources to those in need. By eliminating scarcity of food in communities, members of such communities can live life at a higher quality, and focus on taking care of issues other than their source of food.

Aside from physical service efforts, there are also intangible ways to offer service, such as mentorship. Mentorship is very effective in all types of communities, because regardless of status or class, mentorship is something that can be beneficial to all. Having someone to share learned wisdom and experience allows mentees to make educated decisions regarding different endeavors that they may be involved in. Having someone with more experience allows them to be calculated and knowledgeable in their decision making. Mentors can achieve a sense of fulfillment with the knowledge that they are using their own wisdom and experiences to hopefully better one’s life.

The Impact of Service

The psychology of volunteering is a well-researched topic. Whether one is serving or being served, outreach and volunteer efforts have a monumental impact on the lives of those involved. Volunteering involving a trip or through activities such as mentorship and construction, impacts the mentality of the communities and those helping. As a volunteer, engaging in community service can vastly widen one’s perspective and outlook on life. By being placed in a situation that might be unfamiliar to them, they can grow as a person and cultivate a sense of how the world operates out of their comfort zone and environment.

How does volunteering benefit the community? When receiving aid, individuals within the community can learn and be positively impacted by those providing assistance. Receiving help from strangers is very impactful, because unlike receiving help from family or friends, there is no obligation to do so. Volunteers are acting on their own convictions, which truly makes service efforts memorable for all parties involved. In addition to volunteers building bonds with community members, they can also cultivate relationships with one another, working to strengthen and support each other. When we choose to go beyond ourselves and serve others, we are able to take away valuable lessons and experiences.