Shila Vardell, Giva Student Scholarship and Worldwide Community Ambassador Award Winner, presents an inspiring interview with a young fellow volunteer.
Q: How long have you been volunteering?
A: It has been about 2 years now.
Q: What made you decide to volunteer to help me feed and cloth the homeless?
A: At the time, I was hanging out with the wrong kind of people. I was 13 and my friends were influencing me to drink and do drugs with them. Not only that, but they were also trying to get me to join a gang they were involved in. I felt like they were my only real friends, and I could not find an escape. I went from getting all "A"s in school to getting "D"s and "F"s. My parents were extremely disappointed in me, and that is what hurt the most. I knew that I needed to make changes in my life, or I was going to end up on the wrong path. I thought that maybe helping you and being around the right people would help me make that change.
Q: Have you gotten involved in any other type of volunteering?
A: Yes, I recently started going to church, and they have a lot of volunteering options. They offer free meals to the homeless during certain times of the year, and I have been helping with that. Basically, we make meals at the church, and homeless people come in and we serve them. It is hard during this time of year because it is so cold and rainy, so I think homeless people have a hard time getting to us. I have expressed this to the church, and they are considering taking the food to the people. I think I could really help my church with this part because I know where all of the homeless stay since you and I have been traveling to them for so long.
Q: Do you think you will continue to volunteer?
A: Yes, volunteering has really changed my life. I have met so many great people that I would never have had the chance to meet if I continued to hang out with the people I was hanging out with. Volunteering also gives me something to do with my free time. Instead of going out and doing things I should not be doing, I spend my time being helpful. I know that my help is appreciated, so I enjoy it.
Q: Have you influenced anyone to volunteer?
A: Yes, I have a sister who is one year younger than me, and she was falling into the same trap that I was. She was hanging out with the wrong people and getting into trouble at school. I told her that I knew so many people in gangs and only two things come out of that kind of life: death or jail. She knew it too, but when you do not have many friends, you just want to have people around. Unfortunately for us, the neighborhood we live in is full of gang activity, so most of the people around us are in gangs. The only real time I am out of that environment is when I am volunteering. One day I finally got her to come with me to feed the homeless, and she really liked it. Being around inspirational people is a really good feeling for us.
Q: Where do you think you would be if you never started volunteering?
A: I would definitely be in a gang. When you hang out with the people that I was hanging out with, that is your only choice. Now that I am out of that scene, I can see how it all works. Gang members befriend young people who do not have many friends. They get you to be on their side and get really close to you, almost like family. Next thing you know, you are in a gang and there is no way out.
Q: Do you see yourself starting your own volunteering organization in the future?
A: Honestly, I think when I am in college or maybe a little older I might actually do something like that. I want to help people that same way that I was helped. I have a passion for animals, so I think that I will start some kind of animal rescue center and recruit volunteers to help me.
There are countless ways and means to volunteer. We at Giva encourage everyone to think about how they would like to make a difference in their world. Even one small act can make a huge difference in somebody's life.