By Caroline Blackburn
UniversalGiving® is about incorporating volunteering in everyday life. This belief that people should volunteer naturally is key to the company’s vision.
I wish I could say that I have been to a cool foreign country to help all of the disadvantaged people there, but sadly I cannot. I have not travelled the world, nor have I had the opportunity to serve people who live internationally. What I have come to realize though is that people need help everywhere. You do not need to travel across the globe to aid people (though if you have the opportunity to do so, by all means do it!) and the people you are serving do not need to be the most impoverished. Many people could use assistance all across the world. Volunteering and helping wherever you can will have an impact.
The other thing I realized is the importance of volunteering for something that you are truly passionate about. It is amazing all of the ways the world needs support – whatever you are passionate about, I can almost guarantee will provide an opportunity for you to contribute to society.
I have always loved sports — playing sports, watching sports, anything relating to sports. I never thought that this passion could connect with my other passion philanthropy, until I got to college. I play club lacrosse and my team’s coach mentioned how she volunteered coaching a local middle school team, but had to stop coaching because of her new job. She asked if anyone had an interest to coach the team. I immediately realized that this would be a wonderful opportunity to get involved in a new community and share something I love.
So I showed up to this local middle school, unsure if I was even at the right place and with the realization that I had no clue what I was really doing. Very few of the middle school children had ever played the sport before and they all looked at me as a peer rather than a coach. I remember feeling anxious before I spoke to them about who I was. We all then went around and said our names, favorite celebrity, favorite foods, etc. I showed everyone how to catch and throw a ball and the rest of practice was really spent trying to learn these two skills alone.
At the end of practice, one of the mothers came over to tell me that her daughter would be missing practice every Wednesday. As she explained this to me, her daughter excitedly ran over to her and exclaimed, “I finally found a sport I like!” This was a silly thing for me – how did she know if she liked the sport after such a short amount of time? She had been there for an hour and was still learning to catch and throw a ball. However, this also brought a smile to my face. Not only do I remember the excitement of playing lacrosse for the first time, I also remember running to my mom after the first practice proclaiming my love for the sport that I barely knew how to play.
As the season progressed the girls improved but what meant the most to me was the relationships we were building. Every practice I went to, I was greeted with hugs, smiles and excitement. By the end of the season, they all made me promise to come back and coach next year. Some of the girls had signed up to play lacrosse over the summer and all admitted that they loved learning lacrosse and loved the team even more.
I realized that I didn’t have to be on a different continent or in a poverty stricken place. I could help people from anywhere, using my skills and interests. Volunteering doesn’t always have to be for the most noteworthy cause, getting involved in any way can be significant.
That is why I am so excited to be a part of UniversalGiving®. The idea of easily matching people and companies with volunteer and gift opportunities that they are passionate about facilitates and encourages social impact involvement.