The holidays are the most stressful, yet simultaneously wonderful, time of year for college students. With exams, papers, shopping, parties, and everything in between it feels like there’s waaaaay too much going on to give back to the community.
Last year I volunteered at a fair trade store in my hometown that helped to provide living wages and education to women in third world countries. This year I felt like my options were limited. I’m at school, I have exams, and when I do get home for break I only have a week before Christmas. What could I do? Certainly not what I did last year. So here’s where the story time begins:
About September of this year a new friend of mine texted me at 3 AM asking if I’d help him mentor for something called “Shop With a Bulldawg.” I had no idea what it was and didn’t have many friends on campus so naturally I said yes, signed myself up, and didn’t think about it at all until fall break, when our mentor fee was due. I hadn’t even pulled up the website to see what they were talking about.
For those of you that don’t know, Shop With a Bulldawg is a non-profit student run organization at the University of Georgia that raises money and trains mentors to take impoverished children from the Athens-Clark community Christmas shopping at Target. I absolutely love working with kids, and love volunteering and giving back to the community almost as much, so this was a perfect fit for me! I even ran in their Shop With a Bulldawg (SWAB) First Annual 5k!
(I’m in the front)
Picture taken by SWAB crew member
Event day was a total success! I got up at 5:15 AM and met my mentee at 6 at the Classic Center in Downtown Athens. He was in second grade and was very, very sleepy (but who can blame him!). My partner, my mentee, and I all went to Target and spent $100 on new shoes, clothes, and some awesome toys. As soon as we got to the toy section, my mentee’s face lit up. You could tell he was overwhelmed by all the options. We probably spent half an hour talking about which Nerf gun was the better choice!
After shopping all the mentors and mentees headed back to the Classic Center to wrap their Christmas gifts. Some of the kids had never wrapped a present in their lives. The room was full of laughing, smiling children. I even had a teacher from one of the Clark County elementary schools come up to me and thank me for volunteering.
Picture courtesy of #SWAB2015 on Facebook (and did I mention the event was Finding Nemo themed?!)
So while I thought volunteering at college would be difficult to manage I had this opportunity fall into my lap, and I loved every minute of it! To see my mentee’s face light up with joy when he picked out the Christmas gifts he might not otherwise have gotten was the highlight of my holiday season. I hope everyone is finding the time to give back during this season of gift giving.