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Be an Eco-Helping Hand

A Fulfilling Experience for Mother Nature and You

By Melba Ayala

Issue: December 2017

Beautiful sightseeing views, food from the earth, delightful sounds and places suitable for bonding are among the many benefits Mother Nature has to offer, and what human beings may protect as a thankful gesture.

During the last 12 years, I have served as a volunteer for purposes of countless projects, programs, initiatives and social movements in the island of Puerto Rico, mainly those focused on environmental conservation. During volunteer activities for entities and organizations, such as the San Juan Bay Estuary, Sierra Club, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scuba Dogs Society and Para La Naturaleza, I have enjoyed contributing my services as an interpretive guide, outing leader and a panelist as well as performing tasks for reforestations, coastal cleanups, bird counts, tree scouting, planting of seeds, and collection of data for water quality testing purposes, among others.

While acting as an environmental volunteer requires time and effort investment, the experience is rewarding and cherishable. The irony is that while you are giving back to Mother Nature, nature repays you. Below I share some advantages of providing such assistance, which may encourage you to make a difference.

Volunteer Benefits from an Eco Perspective

1) Gratification

Helping nature tends to be a gratifying experience that might induce a sense of fulfillment. While volunteering, you may recognize that you can be productive and capable of making a positive impact. As a result, you may feel satisfied to give your time and effort without expecting anything in return.

2) Environmental Awareness

You may learn about the ecosystem related to the site where the volunteer activity takes place. Such experience may foster you to be eco-conscious; and thus, influence you to engage in eco-friendly practices as part of your daily routine.

3) Connection with Nature

As a result of volunteering to help protect nature, you may find a new meaning to your role with respect to the environment you come in contact with. For instance, you may comprehend that you are part of the ecosystem rather than a mere benefactor. Consequently, you may learn to connect with simple things that nature has to offer such as a bird’s chirp.

4) Mindfulness of Others

Volunteer work to contribute to environmental conservation in communities other than yours may prompt you to be more conscious about the necessities of others and to respect their surroundings as you would want others to respect yours.

5) New Skills and Work Experience

Working as a volunteer for a pro-environmental cause or project may give you the opportunity to learn new skills for works such as reforestation, preparation of seedlings and other agricultural tasks, and bird counts. The resulting experience may serve as a resume builder. Even students may benefit as some volunteer program organizations certify hours of service for academic credit purposes.

6) Relationship Builder

You may meet people committed to serve nature and with common interests. In some instances, these meeting encounters may result in lifelong friendships, or business or alliance relationships. Occasionally, you might meet these people in diverse volunteer events and that is very cool.

7) Valuable Knowledge Exchange

Since volunteer opportunities serve as a meeting place for people with common interests, volunteers may benefit from the exchange of valuable information of their attention. For instance, people may share with you expert knowledge about their field of study (e.g.: biology, ecology, geology, social studies) or information about how to accomplish skillful tasks that foster environmental conservation, or even suggestions about places to visit, especially off-the-beaten-path ones. Likewise, you may enlighten your volunteer buddies, and feel the satisfaction of sharing knowledge.

I hope you can set your course to nurture the ecosystem, and schedule volunteer activities accordingly.

Translated by N. Michelle Rodríguez Amadeo

Photograph by Carlos Esteva

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