Giva Student Scholarship and Worldwide Ambassador Award winner, Shila Vardell, writes about her own past experience with volunteer work.
By Shila Vardell
Since I was a young child I have always enjoyed volunteering. I had my first volunteer experience when I was 10 years old. My uncle was a firefighter and he helped feed the homeless on the holidays. On Thanksgiving day he agreed to take me with him. I remember being so excited on the car ride to the homeless shelter. We walked into the kitchen and there was so much food and so many volunteers. I was shocked to see that so many people took the time out of their Thanksgiving to help the needy. A few minutes after we arrived, the kitchen doors opened and people flooded in. Hundreds of hungry people formed an assembly line and made their way down the food line. It was my job to put mashed potatoes on their plates. I gave each and every one of them the biggest serving of mashed potatoes that I could possibly get on my spoon. They were all so appreciative and at 10 years old it filled my heart to know that I was making a difference in their lives.
When I was in high school, I started volunteering for a local hospital. Volunteering at the hospital was such a fun experience. I volunteered every Saturday morning from 9am-11am. During that time I brought newspapers and breakfast to each patient. Some of the patients would ask me to read the paper to them or ask me to sit and talk with them. My main job was to deliver things to the patients but I would also socialize with them so they didn't feel alone. It brought me so much joy to see the patient's face light up when I brought them their morning paper.
During my college years I joined a group called CAVE, Community Action Volunteers in Education. They took weekend trips to different places to volunteer. We went to The Golden Gate National Park to help clean up litter and cut down trees. We also went to a Veterans home in Yountville to help care for veterans. I expected all of the people there to be elderly but to my surprise a lot of them were my age. They were living there because they had been wounded while fighting for our country. I talked to as many veterans as I could. I was so interested to hear their stories and they were so happy to be telling them. At the end of our trips I truly think they didn't want us to leave. It felt so good to be able to brighten their day.
While I was in college I started to notice that the number of homeless people in my community were multiplying. It broke my heart to watch them beg people for food and clothing. I was a college student at the time so I didn't have much but I wanted to help them in any way that I could. The first thing I did was go through my closet and gather every item of clothing that I didn't need. Then I went through my kitchen and gathered every item of food that I didn't need. I put all of my unneeded clothing and food into my car and started passing them out to every homeless person that I saw. My items weren't enough so I started asking friends and family for donations. Every time I received donations I would immediately give them to the homeless. It has been 6 years now and I continue to pass donations out to the homeless. It is a rewarding feeling and I don't think I will ever stop.