Giving Compass' Take:

• Volunteering with impact means developing relationships and immersing yourself in the community.

• What steps can volunteers take to ensure they're making a real difference? How can nonprofits help strengthen volunteers' relationships with the community?

• There are plenty of misconceptions about volunteering; this article debunks seven common myths.

I’ve discovered that “helping” is not as simple as it sounds. It takes a lot more than just “showing up” to make the kind of impact that is actually needed in a community. Early on, I took advantage of volunteering opportunities, and not long after, I noticed an imbalance between the impact of volunteers and the needs of the community.

This compelled me to question the ethos of service or a mission to “do good.” In particular, I became critical of the effectiveness of our impact because of the ephemeral nature of volunteering in communities that are not our own.

For a summer, I conducted a service project in Moshi, Tanzania helping a local nonprofit launch their social support program for battered women. However, instead of spearheading this new program, I instead had to immerse myself in the culture, learn the language, and break down those barriers to develop a deeper understanding of the people I wanted to help. Afterwards, I realized that the value of volunteering alone was not enough. In my case, it wasn’t sufficient in relating or aligning my work with the needs of my community partner and the community itself. I learned service shouldn’t be about helping the community, but about how to be a part of the community as well.

And this is what excites me about being a staff member of The Mission Continues! Our goal is to empower veterans to reintegrate into civilian life through serving in their own communities – connecting with service-minded civilians and veterans while making a sustainable impact.

Read the full article about making an impact by Rahiel Alemu at The Mission Continues.