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Personal and Public Victory in Volunteering

When we express gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not by saying words, but living by those words.

As students and parents become busier with school and work, they develop self-centered attitudes because there is simply not enough time to do everything. Naturally, we focus on ourselves, and as a result, we tend to leave little time for giving back to our communities and helping those in need. When asked to volunteer, people often say: What's in it for me? But volunteering and community service empowers an individual in so many ways, it's incredible.

Reflecting on my past volunteer service, I clearly remember the hundreds of smiles on senior citizens' faces when PAVA provided meals and entertainment at the Senior Center in Los Angeles. It was a gesture of giving thanks on Thanksgiving, and we enjoyed a memorable experience. Not only during holidays seasons, but when I made a presentation in front of City Council members to receive approval for a new community center, I felt powerful support from community members that I’ve never felt before.

The Pacific American Volunteer Association has a focus on environmental sustainability, but we also encourage the spread of Asian culture on both Asian and non-Asian populations. As the world becomes more globally interconnected, PAVA recognizes that the experience of multiple cultures is essential for young people and adults.

So how does volunteering help you? When you decide to volunteer, you are sacrificing your time to help other people. Your time is just as important as everyone else's, but by giving back to the community and helping people who are disadvantaged compared to you, you have spent your time much more wisely. Gratitude, self-confidence, cooperation, humility, and awareness are just a few of the qualities that volunteer service gifts you. While others receive your help, you are also receiving benefits at the same time; I came to this realization only after I began my volunteer career.

Everyone knows the phrase: put yourself in other people's shoes. But this is only possible once you step out of your comfortable residence, and witness for yourself what poverty looks like. I will admit it was quite a shock to see and even smell homeless people who couldn't shower for days. Especially in Southern California, where the world's richest and poorest neighborhoods are right next to each other. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and realize how lucky you are, even to have the Wi-Fi that allows you to read this message. I'm not asking you to sign up right away, just try and see the parks that look like graveyards, or people that haven't had a hot meal for weeks. Hopefully that will speak to your heart much more than I ever could.

Here at PAVA, we don't just volunteer. We change the world, little by little. Beyond cleaning parks and providing meals, we demonstrate the true meaning of a lifestyle of service. Parents and students together acquire skills and qualities at PAVA; that separates us from the crowd. Prospective members, don't let laziness or anxiety prevent you from making the world a better place. Come join the wonderful family at PAVA, and give back to the community that gave you so much.

We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.

Andrew Kwon

National President

La Canada High School

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