By Sarah Hendrix | Staff Writer

Volunteering can feel like a daunting task when school and work already take up most of the time that students have available. After I graduated high school in 2009, I decided to volunteer for six months instead of going straight into college. Those six months eventually turned into seven years of volunteer work that took me to places all around the world.

Through a volunteer organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a non-profit Christian organization, I had the opportunity to volunteer in more than 10 countries across Asia and Europe. Countries such as: Thailand, Philippines, Greece, India, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, France, Nepal, Cambodia and Bangladesh. I worked in teams alongside people ages 18-30 from all over the world. We would spend anywhere from one week to three months in each country helping with projects or volunteering with establishments that were already in place.

In these countries I had the opportunity to help aid in typhoon relief, work with refugees from the Middle East fleeing into Europe, volunteer in orphanages and many other opportunities. Volunteering has not only taken me places that I never expected to go, but it has also taught me things that I wouldn’t have learned in a classroom setting. I’ve learned how to adapt quickly into cultures that I am unfamiliar with, learned to be flexible when no-one around me speaks my language, and I’ve realized that serving others has given me a greater appreciation for what I already have.

Volunteering at River of Life down in Chinatown serving food to the homeless on Oʻahu. (Photo courtesy of Connor Hendrix)

I have also had the opportunity to volunteer locally here on Oʻahu. Places such as River of Life in downtown Chinatown (which feeds the homeless every day), Feeding the Hungry (a food drive organized by Surfing the Nations), and events like Walk for Diabetes in Honolulu. Volunteering in all of these avenues has given me a greater sense of community in Honolulu, and has provided the opportunity to get to know many people on the island that I otherwise may have never met.

For all of the years I spent doing volunteer work it was the last place that I volunteered that inspired me to go back to school. In 2016, I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Greece working with refugees from the Middle East fleeing war. During that time I cooked food for refugees arriving on the shores and realized that I had a passion to work with people in crisis situations for the rest of my life. Working alongside the United Nations (UN) I found out that being employed by them required a bachelor’s degree. When I finished my work over in Greece I was inspired to start my education and get my degree so that one day I can work for the UN, or start my own organization to help aid in crisis relief.

Volunteering does not have to take up large portions of time, sometimes it can even be a one-time event. There are many volunteer opportunities in places like the medical field, mentoring opportunities, relief work, animal shelters and more that can help prepare students for the careers they hope to have in the future. Volunteering looks great on a resume and it can provide experience necessary for future careers.

In Honolulu, there are many volunteer opportunities available for students. Some places offer flexible hours that schedule volunteers once a week. Depending on the degree program students are enrolled in, there are many volunteer programs that can help provide experience for future career goals.

Listed below are some of the volunteer programs students can get involved with in Honolulu.

Hospitals are always looking for volunteers that want to pursue a career in the medical field. Queen’s Medical Center is looking for volunteers to commit to 4 hours a week. To volunteer at Queen’s go on the website and fill out an application.

Hawaiian Humane Society is looking for volunteers to help with their animals. The commitment is six months for three hours a week. To volunteer contact them by phone 808-356-2222 or email

Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaiʻi is looking for mentors. In this program students will get matched with younger kids in the community that need mentorship. The requirements are at least two outings a month for a few hours each time. For more information on volunteering go to their website and schedule a call with one of their representatives.

808 Cleanups has a volunteer program for people that want to help keep the island clean. There are volunteer opportunities to help clean trails, beaches and parks all over the island of Oʻahu. To volunteer go on their website and fill our their volunteer information form. For more information on volunteering call 808-892-3464.