Be Brave. Be Kind. Volunteer.

At Born This Way Foundation, we’re proud to shine the light on organizations that are helping make the world a kinder, braver place. This month, we are excited to showcase the work VolunteerMatch is doing to connect volunteers with people and organizations in need. 

“Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”

In 2015, I moved to a city that few can afford to move to: San Francisco.

My euphoria at being in this beautiful, bustling, and historic town gave way to unease as I learned about the “city by the Bay”’s real-time issues: rapidly rising housing costs, wrongful evictions, and overwhelming economic disparities. These issues are complex ones — ones that San Francisco has yet to figure out.

I wanted to be a part of the solution. But I found myself discouraged, thinking, “What could one person possibly do?”

When a problem feels too big, many of us — myself included — tend to feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this often results in doing nothing, or non-action, rather than a taking small step. I decided to pursue the latter. I pushed my introverted self to the edge of my comfort zone. I started volunteering alongside my neighbors.

I went on VolunteerMatch.org and discovered Mission Graduates — a San Francisco-based organization with a mission to increase the number of K-12 students who are prepared for and finish college.

Mission Graduates stood out to me for a few reasons, which are all tied back to the concept of “kindness”.

1. Kindness = Stepping Up
In San Francisco’s Mission District, an increasing number of transplants are able to afford private education for their children. This perpetuates the neighborhood’s economic disparities, leaving children in public schools — those who already have socioeconomic factors working against them — have less access to quality education.

2. Kindness = Giving Back
I realized I had been lucky enough to have the freedom to move to a better situation when I wasn’t happy where I was at. These kids likely wouldn’t have the same luxury, due to a decline in social mobility in the U.S.

3. Kindness = Sharing of Yourself
Mission Graduates paired me with a first-grade class. For two hours every week, I assisted a teacher during their Extended Day Program.

I worked closely with the students who needed a little extra help: keeping them engaged and focused while helping them complete their assignments. In turn, they taught me some Spanish, improved my capacity for patience, and made me smile.

The best part? I saw a part of my city that I wouldn’t have otherwise come into contact with. I got to know them on a deep and personal level, and they got to know me.

Every volunteer experience is different. Whether you’re challenging yourself to step out to the edge of your comfort zone, or doing something you already know and love. Building new skills, or using the skills you already possess. Volunteering from home, or traveling out into your community. Giving to your community, or practicing acts of self-kindness (yup, volunteering is good for you too!).

No matter what form it takes, volunteering = kindness. For me, volunteering with Mission Graduates may have been a small step, but it was a small step towards bettering my community, and a step towards bettering myself.

There are millions of volunteer opportunities out there, each one as unique as you. If you’re hesitant to get started, remember that “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” Take that step. Be brave. Be kind. Volunteer.

P.S. Find your inspiration by reading volunteer stories on VolunteerMatch.org.