While so much of life centers on getting, it’s easy to overlook the virtues and rewards of giving.
Volunteering is all about giving away the most prized commodity: time. And while it seldom includes any financial reward, volunteering often delivers wonderful benefits that no amount of money can match.
According to The Mayo Clinic, volunteering is statistically proven to reduce depression and stress while simultaneously increasing one’s sense of joy and purpose. And couldn’t we all use a little more of that these days?
If you recently moved to the United States, volunteering may be an especially motivating and useful investment of your time. In fact, there are three great reasons why immigrants should consider volunteering.
1. Volunteering Builds Community
When visiting a new country, vacationers view their surroundings as an outsider. They sample the culture, admire it at arm’s length, and then return home with plenty of pictures to post on Instagram.
When you move to a new country, however, there’s a special opportunity to graduate from merely admiring the local culture to actively participating in it. As an immigrant, volunteering provides the most powerful pathway to assimilation.
However you choose to donate your time, volunteering empowers you to give back to your local community while better understanding your individual role within it. As a result, you’ll not only develop new relationships and help the people beside you, but you’ll quickly grow more confident in your new surroundings.
And that’s how a new country moves from feeling foreign to seeming more and more like home. Because your home is no longer simply the place where you live…it’s the people and the culture around you.
2. Volunteering Develops Confidence
When you first move to the United States, there are countless variables to overcome. Learning English (and feeling completely comfortable speaking it) is typically the most significant hurdle.
But there’s another challenge to negotiate beyond mastering the language itself: understanding niche cultural norms, social interactions, and even slang.
By volunteering, however, you put yourself in a low-pressure environment to essentially practice and develop your interpersonal skills. And while Malcolm Gladwell believes that true expertise requires 10,000 hours of practice, you only need a fraction of that to get more confident.
A bit of social exposure in your new country will go a long way to helping you get more comfortable talking to others and working alongside your peers.
3. Volunteering Drives Careers
There’s no denying that volunteering and community service look good on a resumé.
Employers love to hire empathetic and engaged leaders with active lives beyond the limits of their 9-to-5 workday. And yet, volunteering has even more compelling benefits.
On one hand, volunteering allows you to use your current skill set and apply it to entirely new areas. For example, if you’re a financial advisor or tax professional, you could focus your expertise on helping a local nonprofit manage their budget and save money.
Conversely, if you’re interested in changing careers but aren’t quite ready to make the transition, volunteering also allows you to acquire new knowledge and training at your own time.
In other words, volunteering provides the chance to effectively try out a new career without committing to it full-time. For example, if you’re interested in nursing but are currently working in a different industry, you could volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home one or two days a week to try it out.
In general, volunteering increases your exposure to professional organizations and clubs throughout your local community. As a result of your service, your networking and knowledge will continue to grow and facilitate exciting career opportunities.
P.S. Be sure to capitalize on the available tax deductions for your volunteer work. While your actual hours devoted to a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity or community organization are not deductible, other out-of-pocket costs are, including:
- All associated travel expenses (like flights, taxis, trains, hotels and food costs)
- Any expenses paid entertaining potential contributors (including dinners and drinks)
- Gas costs incurred from using your own car for volunteering and community services
Click here to view the full list of available tax-deductible costs.
Where to Volunteer
There are so many great organizations to get involved with across America.
Depending on your interests, you may consider any of the following areas to volunteer your time:
- Retirement homes
- The Red Cross
- Art museums & theaters
- Local libraries
- National parks
- Political campaigns
- Environmental projects
- Community development
- Advocacy & Human Rights
- Animal Protection
There are countless opportunities to pursue. Click here to check out Volunteer Match, the largest network of nonprofits around the country.
Simply enter your city or zip code to explore opportunities near you!
At uLink, we marvel at your generosity. While tasked with adjusting to a new country, you remain steadfastly focused on the well-being of others (both in your community and back home).
To help you maximize your gifts, we dedicate ourselves to providing great exchange rates and fees starting as low as $0.
After all, you’re here to support your family, and we’re here to support you.