The sense of charity that characterizes the act of volunteering usually dominates the discussion. It is all about giving back, considering that we are fortunate enough to help those in need. It isn’t until I started actively volunteering for a cause that I attach a great importance to that I realized by helping others, I was also doing myself a huge favour.

Frankly, I believe that volunteering provides me with many benefits that help me to help myself.

It wasn’t until I entered the world of higher education that I became aware of the personal benefits you get from volunteering. Like many college freshmen, I had volunteer experience under my belt. But while concentrating on my field of studies, it seemed essential to be professionally involved rather than voluntarily.

So I packed my schedule with an internship and a part-time position on top of my full-time course load. I was motivated and eager to learn on the job, but before I could see the outcomes of my engagements, I found myself in a mental state I had never experienced before.

You know the feeling of personal disappointment when you think that your work isn’t making any difference? I had this feeling haunting me for weeks until I came across a volunteer opportunity that resonated with me.

An advertisement on social media talked about a socially inclusive project designed by Ottawa residents for Ottawa residents. As a journalist, I attach a great importance to make a difference in my community, so naturally I got on board. My schedule was already full but I thought adding three hours per week wouldn’t hurt. And really, it didn’t.

On the contrary, it felt rewarding to get involved in my community in a way I could see the direct impact of my engagement. I went from feeling unfruitful to having a real purpose in my life.

My volunteer commitment became meaningful when I was offered an ambassador position for a youth-focused program designed to increase social inclusion in Ottawa. My role was to create and lead a team project that enabled young marginalized individuals who identify to different groups to connect by offering them a safe space to share their experiences. Before I could realize it, I had open doors and pave the road for young people – like myself – to solve issues in our community.

I grew as a person as I expended my field of interest. By being able to boast experience in a different field, I realized my major would open me a variety of doors and opportunities I had never thought of.

Volunteering in an area that could be of use post-graduation allowed me to build strong social and professional networks. This experience enabled me to meet like-minded people who share my interests, as well as people from different walks of life. Among these people, I now have friends, mentors I look forward to working with in the future and professionals who will be willing to vouch for me for a future job application.

On top of improving my mental health, volunteering while completing my post-secondary education boosted my resume by expending my soft skills. I was managing my time well enough to take an unpaid position, in which I learned to become a team player.

All in all, the benefits I got from volunteering in college were worth adding a couple hours a week in my busy schedule. Whether it’s a somewhat selfish reason to volunteer or not, volunteerism makes you a better person.