University of California

Want to give back during your winter break? Here’s how

Although living in California can feel like it’s summer 24/7, the holidays are quickly approaching, bringing a plethora of free time to spend with family, friends, and beloved Netflix. However, as you unwind from the stress of the semester, consider using your break to do purposeful volunteering and giving back to the causes and communities that matter most to you.

If you feel the urge in your heart to do something and make a difference, you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, 77% of millennial-aged respondents reported that they have involved themselves in a good cause through either taking an active interest in a cause (40%), becoming a donor of the organization (30%), becoming an active volunteer (30%), or raising money (23%). We’re a generation with dreams bursting out the seams, and an understanding of the people and communities that sacrifice their level of comfort and resources to support our dreams.

As you plan your next winter break, pause “Rick and Morty” and check out these ways to give back to the community.

Give back to yourself. “But, Jules, this article is supposed to be about helping others!” Before you sharpen your pitchforks and dismiss the rest of my article, understand that self-care is a revolutionary act that maps onto the well-being of the causes we care about. We cannot advocate fully for others if we cannot advocate for ourselves, and we do not deserve to run on empty tank while wearing multiple hats throughout the day.

You just finished a likely stressful semester full of exams, quizzes, readings, extracurricular activities, and the midnight shifts so you could pay rent the next month. You deserve time to rest and breathe. It doesn’t help that for many of us, the holidays tend to be high-stress periods, especially if there’s tension when it comes to seeing family members or coming back home for the holidays. If you don’t take time to rest, you’ll enter the new semester already burnt out and frazzled, and who want that?

Do what you need to do to unwind, relax, and feel like yourself again. Recharge your emotional energy battery, and feel empowered taking time for yourself to exist and process and heal from the semester.

Help out your community. It’s easy to think that volunteering requires hopping on a plane to a foreign destination and spending months in a country you’ve never heard of, but often change is necessary in our own communities. Often, local city websites will post volunteer directories of various organizations local to the community that need an extra hand. Whether it’s helping clean out the kennels in animal shelters or planting trees in your neighborhood park, every act of service to give back to your community can make a positive difference. From the dorm room to the board room, transformative leadership begins with service and the willingness to help your community.

But if you want to travel, go for it! Use your free time to experience a new state or country, while giving back and getting to know the local community. One of the best ways to do that is through Workaway, a volunteer directory connecting eager travelers with hosts in their destination country. From there, you can help your host maintain their gardens, teach English classes, or any other odd jobs in return for a lively cultural exchange and free accommodation.

This holiday, let’s focus not just on making our Christmas lights brighter, but our lives brighter with the positive experience that only volunteering can bring. Whether it’s hugging your loved ones extra close or volunteering with a nonprofit organization for your break, you have the power to make a difference toward the causes that you care about.

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