Volunteering as a student is one of the best ways to grow as a young professional. We may think we know what our interests are, but really we need to be considering all career possibilities. By volunteering for others we are volunteering for professional growth.
Though I am stressed by the number of practicums I have to complete, I have still made the decision to work voluntarily with the homeless, a group that resides outside of my “professional interests.” I intend to work with adolescents as a career; but it would be an injustice to reject any chance for professional growth.
Part of the reason I want to work with the poor and homeless is I have my own biases which call for examination. If I intend on a clinical social work career, then I need to break down the stereotypes in my mind. Working in a soup kitchen was a great way to challenge my preconceived notions.
I quickly learned that poverty itself does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, gender, or sexual orientation. I served families, as well as drug abusers–it was an eye opening experience. By opening myself to this experience, I was repaid with a humbling appreciation for a “social population” that I admittedly did not really understand. I implore my fellow social work students to plug into cultures outside of your normal professional interests. You will learn a lot about the people you help, yourself included.
Image from dartmouth.org