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2014: A Year to Give Back

This Christmas I noticed something that hadn’t really oc­curred to me before. I honestly did not need or want anything. Not one item. Sure clothes are always nice, but do I re­ally need any? Absolutely not. I fill up a dresser and two closets as it is. In fact, I could probably stand to get rid of some clothes rather than cramming them back into their storage spaces with their friends. I received clothes anyhow.

I also missed my annual Christmas charity work. Every year my family and I go to the Civic Center in Bismarck, and we helped fill baskets full of food for those less fortunate. These families greatly appreciate the help, and more and more volunteers are needed every year.

What do these two sto­ries have in common? Giv­ing. Christmas has become so commercialized that I can hardly stand to go shopping anymore. Actually, when you really think about it, just about every holiday has be­come commercialized. Why can’t we give something every holiday instead of ex­pecting to receive mounds of gifts that we probably do not need? Well, for my “New Year’s Resolution,” I’ve decided to make 2014 a giving year.

At each holiday I’m go­ing to do some sort of char­ity work. Something like working at the local home­less shelter or dog rescue most likely. For my birthday and Christmas, I’m going to ask for money to put toward my volunteer study abroad trip to Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. Boom. An entire year of giving, helped funded by holidays which I would usu­ally receive gifts.

I want to inspire you with this article, so let’s talk about altruism. Nothing like talking about selflessness to get us in the right mindset, right? Well, kinda.

I’m a believer in altru­ism, though every Psychol­ogy teacher I’ve ever had would laugh and say, “But Rhianna, there is no such thing as true altruism. You always gain something, whether it be possessions or just the good feeling you get by doing something for someone else.”

Well, it may not be pure altruism, but I’d say if what I gain from it is just a good feeling in my heart, then that is good enough for me.

So today, think about how your life is going. What did you get for Christmas? How about your birthday? Did you really need any of it? If you actually did need some of it, what about the rest of it? Really quantita­tive terms, I know, but just think about it. Possessions shouldn’t give you that fuzzy feeling in your heart, and if they do, then I would say you should re-evaluate your life.

That’s what I did this Christmas, and it was the best gift I could have got­ten. I’ve always been a give back kind of person, always focusing on being kind and not focusing on myself, but this is one way I can take it a step further.

I’m really looking for­ward to building sidewalks for people in Fiji so that they can safely walk to their church and houses during the rainy season. Sheering sheep and doing conserva­tion work under the gaze of “Mount Doom” in Fiji is a dream come true to me. Studying climate change and doing even more con­servation work to cut back some of the damage that climate change has caused sounds incredible to me. I get to see all of these places and their beautiful sites all while giving back and earn­ing college credit.

Volunteer study abroad trips are one of my favorite ways for college students to give back. It’s like joining the Peace Corps but you get to stay in school, which my mother really liked. I’m sure yours will, too.

This isn’t the only way for students to give back, but in my opinion it is the most exciting, and I urge you to look into some of these opportunities. Not just the ones listed on the NDSU Travel Abroad web page. I found my program by Googling “Gap Year Trips,” and poof there it was. The unique thing about trips like this is that you aren’t stuck in a class room every single day. You are out in the real world doing real work, and you are not getting paid for it, but you are getting a bet­ter education. Sounds kind of backwards, but this is the kind of study experience that seems the most valuable to me.

I not only get a better education, but the people of Fiji get sidewalks, roads, and whatever else I get to build, and New Zealand and Australia get a whole bunch of conservation work, which can be anything from plant­ing trees to weeding out invasive species in the out­back.

I suppose you are won­dering, “What about Thai­land?”

This is my favorite. I get to spend a minimum of three months volunteering at the Save Elephant Founda­tion. This is exactly what it sounds like. Months of giv­ing elephants baths, but also rescuing elephants from the surrounding communities that cannot properly take care of them. In Thailand, elephants are quite common pets. When people can’t take care of them anymore, they often get sold to work in the illegal logging indus­try or in tourism. Save El­ephant Foundation provides the proper care for these elephants, and they are free to roam in a natural environ­ment. No elephant paintings or rides to be found here.

If elephants don’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.

Go volunteer. Give back.


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