Choose Connection through Volunteering

Teenagers volunteering to fix up a community mural

People around the world choose connection through service. See how volunteering helps them feel more connected to friends, strangers, and entire communities.

At Rootstech, we choose connection. If you want to find more ways to connect with others, visit RootsTech.org for inspiring content from the world's largest family history event.

When you want to feel more connected to others, try helping them. Or try working with them to help someone else. It’s a popular strategy among leaders, teachers, and others who want to build community within their groups. They know that one of the proven benefits of volunteering—beyond the results of the service itself—is to build connection.

The inspiring stories below show how people choose connection to others through service. Learn how a Vietnamese woman helped feed a city during the COVID-19 pandemic, how students partner with faraway communities in need of help, and how immigrants in Australia build lives in new places by lending a hand.

Feeding a City

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, last July, the city was placed under hard lockdown. Residents were told not to leave their homes unless they were buying food. Nobody could enter or leave the city unless they were delivering goods.

Ngan Phan saw long lines of panicked people at the supermarkets and decided to help. With a group of family and friends, she began volunteering. First, they cooked 300 meals a day for a COVIDhospital. Then they began delivering meals and supplies to people around the city. For 14 to 16 hours a day, she focused on getting food to the poorest and most isolated neighborhoods and delivering medical supplies to hospitals and homes. This service was all done while she was keeping up with her regular job.

Ngan Phan and her friends delivered meals and supplies around the city.
Ngan Phan and her friends delivered meals and supplies around the city.

These efforts continued for four months. “We actually enjoyed it,” Ngan says. “Loading water or bags of goods became a game, with people of all generations working together. We turned on the music and sang along with the songs. At the end of the day, we ate together, drank tea, and talked about what we needed to do the next day.”

“This challenging time brought me a lot of good friends,” she recalls. “Everyone was so open, I felt like we have all known each other a long time. The friendships are the most valuable asset I earned from COVID. I learned so much from them, not only skills but their determination, diligence, patience, and loving-kindness.”

Building a Future

Engineering students often look for opportunities to get hands-on experience while they are still studying at school. Some volunteer with Engineers without Borders, a global organization that partners with communities that could use their help. Students help find and implement solutions to problems such as inadequate housing, water, or power.

“Working with real people on a project with real-life implications shows them why they do what they do,” says Lynn M. Rollins, who works with Engineers without Borders student volunteers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. “Many say it was the most meaningful experience they had in college and that it changes how they view the world and what they want to do with their careers. Some of our students even stay connected with the communities after they graduate.”

Students volunteer through Engineers without Borders.
Students volunteer through Engineers without Borders.

“I think it is that sense of being a global citizen that they probably take away the most,” Lynn continues. “The students can point to something they left behind that has impact. Before there wasn’t running water in a community, and now there is. They feel connected because they have given something useful, but they have also benefited immensely during the process. They come away feeling connected to people from very different backgrounds. They realize there’s not as much difference between them and other people as they would have thought.”

Finding a New Community

More than a quarter of Australia’s residents were born elsewhere. Many have been welcomed in recent years to fill gaps in the workforce and aging population. One challenge for newcomers is to become full participants in their new communities, especially if they speak a different language than their neighbors.

In a survey, recent immigrants in Australia reported that about three-quarters of them had been helped by a volunteer to learn English, learn to drive, or settle into their new neighborhood. Over half reported donating their own time to help other migrants. Many also reported serving at a local school, sporting club, or place of worship or helping people in in other ways.

Volunteers in a community garden in Australia
Volunteers working in a community garden in Australia.

More than 90 percent of respondents felt that volunteering was an important way to deepen their connection to their new homes. Building relationships with longtime residents helped immigrants feel welcome and navigate new experiences. Friendships forged with other migrants helped people feel that they had someone to call on in times of need or crisis. Volunteering also brought other benefits, such as building job skills and networking.

Choose Connection at RootsTech

Find new ways to connect with others around the world at the free, global RootsTech event. You can connect with your relatives all over the world and learn about fascinating ways to connect with those around you. Visit RootsTech.org to enjoy everything RootsTech has to offer.


Related Links

At JustServe.org you can find volunteer opportunities near you and browse remote opportunities too. This service helps link volunteer organizations and volunteers.
Whether you'd like to volunteer online or in person, FamilySearch has a variety of service opportunities for individuals around the world. Help people connect to their families, both past and present.
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About the Author
Sunny Jane Morton teaches family history to global audiences as a speaker and writer. She is a contributing editor at Family Tree Magazine (U.S.) and content manager for Your DNA Guide. She is co-author of How to Find Your FamilyHistory in U.S. Church Records and author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy. Find her at www.sunnymorton.com.