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Now is the time to give back: Holiday season calls for volunteers
Kylie Tielke
Antelope Staff

“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

The greatest gift a person can give another is their personal services. The greatest benefit of volunteering is the self-benefit and making a difference in someone else’s life and in the community.

“Volunteering gives me a sense of community to allow me to do something for the better of everyone and not just myself,” said Jena Lynch, senior sociology and German major from Lincoln, who can speak on this firsthand.  In January, Lynch will travel to Cambodia where she will teach English as a volunteer.

“I will be teaching English to adults from Cambodia. They will pay to take my class, and then the money they pay will go towards clean water and developing the area,” Lynch said.

According to Lynch, volunteering is not for everyone, but definitely is rewarding.

She decided to travel to Cambodia because she was not sure what she wanted to continue to study in graduate school.  Another reason for her volunteering: simply to give back.

“I have been really fortunate throughout the years. My family has helped support me through college where I have had the opportunity to study abroad twice and live comfortably. I just think now it is time to give something back,” Lynch said.

Lynch chose Cambodia because of its most recent history. In the past 30 years, they have struggled through genocide where approximately 20 percent of the population’s  (1.7 million) lives were exterminated, creating one of the worst human tragedies in the last century.

“Their history was interesting to me, and I just really wanted to explore a new country, and of course, help as much as I can,” Lynch said.

Volunteering abroad has many benefits for students. Other than earning college credit and having the opportunity to explore a new country, there are deeper benefits to volunteering.

“Personally I think going abroad focuses you. It takes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to look at yourself from the outside. It allows you to grow and find out who you are as a person,” Ann Marie Park, coordinator of the study abroad and exchange programs said.

According to Park, going abroad helps students gain knowledge about other countries and helps them focus on what is important in life.

“I have had many students come back and change their lives, including their major. When they come back, they realize what exactly they want to do and what they want to learn,” Park said.

According to goingglobal.com, other benefits of volunteering include promoting a cause, learning firsthand from the source about a community, its culture, the people and the issues, and applying your specialized skills in unconventional settings. Another benefit is to broaden your skills.

“I think everyone should do this. It’s key in a person’s life,” Park said.

According to Park, students can only benefit from going abroad. “I think everyone should go abroad. College is a pivotal time in an individual’s life and this is a chance for them to form themselves and decide what they want to do in their lives,” Park said.

Lynch will be teaching an English program in Cambodia for three months.

There are many ways to get involved in volunteering whether it’s abroad or even right here in Kearney. The first thing to do is use the Internet to research. A few Web sites that offer distinct directions on how to volunteer include idealist.org, volunteerinternational.org and volunteerabroad.com.

Idealist is a project that has thorough databases that search nonprofit organizations. International Volunteer Programs Association has organizations that promote volunteer and internship exchanges. Volunteer abroad is a Web site that is directed toward students.

To get involved, visit UNK’s service-learning department. For more information contact director Geraldine Stirtz.

“It’s pretty easy to get paid for something, but a lot harder to do something just out of the goodness of your heart,” Lynch said.

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