People choose to volunteer for variety of different reasons. For someone it’s a chance to give back to their community, for someone – learn new skills or practice already gained experience and knowledge. But regardless of the reason, all the volunteers find those experiences both challenging and rewarding.

We interviewed Olga, who surprised and inspired us by sharing her perspective on volunteering. We mean, she claims it’s her lifestyle! Small warning – after reading this interview, you will want to go and do something nice for others. 🙂

– Please introduce yourself.

My name is Olga Ruda. I’m 22 and I’m from Kyiv, Ukraine. I’m currently the Ukrainian youth delegate to the United Nations. I’m also a Masters student at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv studying International Relations. But besides all that serious stuff, I’m into a lot of fun things like photography, creative writing, languages. I love horseback riding but need plenty of practice to get good at it one day. My friends would say that I’m an extrovert and quite fun to be around. I’d love to believe it’s true. In turn I would describe myself as a determined dreamer. In my daily life I try to follow the idea once expressed by Mahatma Gandhi – be the change you want to see in the world.

– We know that you’re an avid volunteer and have been volunteering ever since you were 14 years old. Could you tell us about your experiences?

Yeah, my first volunteering experience was when I was 14. A peace corps volunteer came to live in our small town in the West of Ukraine. He was the one to start a small eco-project aimed to make the local riverbanks free of trash. Back then the concept of volunteering was brand new to me. After participating in this cleaning event, I knew that I would do things of that kind more often in the future because I liked it a lot. Shortly after that I became a Flex program participant and in the year to come I found myself volunteering in the US. I did many different things from preparing food to planting trees and helping at Goodwill. Many of those gave me a completely different perspective on life. During my first couple of years at university, I volunteered at conferences, festivals, competitions, celebrations, then went on to join AIESEC and its never ending strive for leadership. I can’t even count how many hours I’ve spent volunteering by now but it has always been very fulfilling and meaningful to me.

– What inspired you to volunteer and help other people?

It might have been the feeling I got the first time volunteering . Or maybe the general atmosphere of everyone caring for the same cause. The feeling of community. Or the kind of people you meet when volunteering because they’re absolutely great. And for sure the idea that something I do makes this world  better, kinder, happier. Well I could even say that all the previously mentioned reasons inspired me. You see, volunteering is not something you can explain through the model of reason and consequence. This is rather a state of mind, a lifestyle if you will.

– What has been your most memorable volunteering experience and why?

I guess the most memorable was my recent experience when we went to help the organization that looks after homeless cats to prepare for the winter. And of course to socialize and play with their cute cats. Why was it so special? I think because it was the first volunteering event I organized myself to celebrate International Volunteer Day and to engage more young people into volunteering. Actually for two of the participants, it was their first time volunteering, and it absolutely thrilled me. I felt like I did something to those two people that peace corps did to me years ago. It felt like pay it forward thing. I hope they will continue doing so and I will plan more of such events.

– How do you empower others, even when you’re not volunteering?

There are many things I do to empower others besides the actual volunteering. For example, sharing about my experiences. I’m quite active on social media. I post a lot and it is always easy to reach me through private messages to get more information or to schedule a coffee. As well I try to always share opportunities I come across. Generally I would say there are three statements that I stick to when empowering others: Being an example, discover a person’s potential, show the impact.

– What is one lesson that you’ve learned that you’d like others to know and live by too?

This one is simple. Something I have to say is “People are the biggest value of your life. Everything in this world is created by them and for them. They will make you happy and sad, motivated and discouraged. They make up your memories, occupy space around you and your Facebook thread. So get to know them. Respect them. Help them. Become people-oriented and you will discover that the world is kinder than you’ve ever imagined. And there will be nothing you can’t do, not a place where you can’t feel at home, not a soul you can’t ignite”.

More and more young people choose to volunteer each year. There are plenty of opportunities to do so and even choose the direction, you feel the most passioned about and you would be happy to contribute to. We hope that Olga’s story showed you that it’s not at all hard to actually start taking action. And what’s in it for you? Only you can answer.

 

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