As budget travelers, we are always on the hunt for free and low-cost activities in the places we visit. One of my favorite ways to experience my city of Atlanta is by volunteering for a local charity. Not only do I get to help the community I live in, but I also get an authentic glimpse into the lives of others and the issues that are important to them. These connections can lead to friendships and a deeper understanding of life outside of our own.
One way that I volunteer each summer is with Passion City Church and LOVE ATLANTA. LOVE ATLANTA is a week-long volunteer service opportunity to give back to the community in and around Atlanta. It's a beautiful week of service. I served with Books for Africa, Meals on Wheels, and The Table on Delk, to name a few. More than 1,000 volunteers serve with around 50 partners each year on hundreds of projects during the week of LOVE ATLANTA.
Although LOVE ATLANTA is over, International Day of Charity is coming up on September 5, 2023, and this is the perfect opportunity to volunteer if it's been a while for you or if you're new to it. Atlanta has many places to volunteer. Here are a few I recommend:
Meals on Wheels in Atlanta
Atlanta Community Food Bank in East Point
Mostly Mutts in Kennesaw (if you like cats and dogs)
Books for Africa in Marietta
Must Ministries in Cherokee, Marietta, and Smyrna
You can see me when I volunteered with Books for Africa. I helped out twice through LOVE ATLANTA. They have a great story that you should learn about. If you like sorting and organizing while having community with other volunteers, this would be a good fit. Meals on Wheels is fun if you like to drive. Imagine Uber Eats or any other delivery service, just for the good of helping others. I enjoyed my time with Mostly Mutts after I lost my sweet Samson, pictured below, looking adorable as he always did. Once I was ready, I went to walk dogs with Mostly Mutts because, at the time, I was in grad school and didn't have time for a dog full-time in the house. The sweet pups helped fill the void in my heart that Sam left.
For me, I want to get back to volunteering now that I am done with grad school. Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose and meaning that I miss out on when I don't volunteer. I enjoy helping others in ways I can, and generally, that is by giving of my time. When I help others, it makes me feel good, but that's not the only reason I do it; I do it because I want to contribute to the world and make people's lives a little better along the way. I like connecting with people, and in a world that is hurting and people are so alone, having a small conversation with someone can go a long way. I also love learning new things. It almost doesn't matter about what, and when I volunteer, I learn so much about others, the organization, and about myself. I also get to learn new skills and gain new experiences. For the past few years with LOVE ATLANTA, I volunteered as a leader. This was a new role for me and was a skill I wanted to achieve. I don't mind being in the background, but I wanted to try something new. I gained leadership skills, like problem-solving, decision-making, and communication. These skills helped me in grad school when I wanted to learn to be more confident and vocal about things I know.
Volunteering can also be a great way to enhance your budget travels. I have yet to volunteer while I travel, but it is on my bucket list. As I embark on new adventures, I realize that volunteering abroad or on vacation domestically can enhance a travel experience. It can provide opportunities for cultural immersion that typical tourism lacks. There are many programs that match volunteers with community organizations in need of extra help if you're interested in volunteering on your next vacation. And maybe vacation and volunteer don't belong in the same sentence for you, but imagine how much more fulfilling a vacation can be when we take a few hours to focus on someone other than ourselves. So next time you plan a trip, consider setting aside some time to give back to the local community. Connecting with people from different backgrounds and gaining new perspectives on global issues - that is what travel is all about. And volunteering is one of the best ways to achieve this.
Eat, Drink, and be Melly