Oftentimes as students at Cal we get caught up in seemingly endless tasks and projects. It is also quite easy for the average Berkeley student to remain in the same minimal-mile radius that is campus and its surroundings. Being caught in the Berkeley bubble is not uncommon, but oftentimes it seems like breaking free from it and contextualizing our situations is.
Recently I have been involved in a few truly rewarding volunteer experiences and opportunities. Most recently, I volunteered with fellow residents at International House, the dorm that I live in, through the Berkeley Project program.
Berkeley Project is a campus organization that facilitates volunteer opportunities for many campus organizations and independent students at Cal. Groups of students as well as people who are just interested in volunteering for the day without a group are assigned to various sites where they work on projects like painting, landscaping and other tasks to help improve the Berkeley community.
Myself and around 10 other residents or so were assigned to a landscaping and beautification project at Grove Park softball field. Despite an initial very rainy and cold start, we spent the day removing weeds and bonding through our experience. We also were able to get to know students from 2 other campus clubs, as well as independently volunteering students, through our shared experience. The entire experience was an great way for me to feel helpful as a contributor to my community, and get off campus to do something that didn’t revolve around myself and my commitments.
There are countless campus organizations to get involved in that offer opportunities for service. Last year I worked with ReUSE, the small thrift store in the bottom of the MLK student union. ReUSE collects used items from students that would otherwise be thrown away and resells them for $1, $2, or $3. All the proceeds made from these sales is donated to charity and organizations that promote sustainability.
ReUSE taught me a lot about the importance of reducing waste and giving new life to objects that have already been used. It, similarly to Berkeley Project, helped me to use my skills to benefit the good of society, regardless of potential personal gain. From volunteering there on a weekly basis, I could consistently see what good the organization was doing and made worthwhile connections. It was truly a great experience.
From these experiences I am only eager to do more to give back. With our constant stresses, commitments, and calendar items, taking time to do usually simple tasks to benefit others is totally worthwhile. To me, integrating some kind of volunteer work into my schedule each semester has made my college experience refreshing and positive. While we all have different interests and may do it in different ways, volunteering and giving back is a readily available opportunity that can change perspectives and elevate communities.