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Teen Life: Making the most of volunteering

Any charitable work can create a platform for both the needy and the volunteer to learn from each other and grow.

You could be forgiven for thinking of teenagers as essentially a dodgy lot contributing nothing to the community, best kept at a safe distance. This has a modicum of truth; stereotypes are rarely formed without cause. On most occasions, we teenagers could give the most indolent sloth a run for its money. However, when we are compelled to, we can find the will within ourselves to commit to good causes.

You'd be surprised at just what a large percentage of the teenage population is involved in some sort of charitable enterprise or another. That doesn't mean, of course, that we are growing ever more responsible. Although this sounds selfish, our reasons for engaging in particular charitable activities, initially, might only be to add another point in our curriculum vitae, in an effort to hold our own in the cut-throat competition for university places.

Funny thing is, the more we work towards the cause, the more we grow to believe in it and the more we begin to cherish it for the warm, fuzzy feeling it gives us. The problem is that teenagers are often unable to find a suitable opportunity that ties in with their interests or works out logistically.

There's a fantastic organisation called Volunteer in Dubai, a pretty self explanatory name, and a website and Facebook page that help to keep track of any events in the vicinity you can, well, volunteer for. The Safe and Sound Pink Walkathon at Za'abeel Park will raise awareness for breast cancer research. It is scheduled for November 9 and promises to be an event worth adding to your calendar. I played the very important role of hat hand-outer in the last walkathon, which involved standing behind a table with 20 other people, giving out pink hats to walkathon participants. I might not have done much, but the stint certainly caused me to pester family members to have mammograms frequently. Awareness drives such as these really can make a difference.

Working at a leprosy camp in India this summer has provided me with a stark insight into the world of those who have been afflicted by the illness. Haunted by leprosy as well as the damning social stigma still associated with it in the country, lepers are forced into camps away from the city centre. The disease is not contagious once the patient has completed certain cycles of medication, but many in the third world are ignorant of the needs of these resilient people to be integrated back into society.

An influx of young volunteers may be what is needed to bridge the gap between a world oblivious to the lepers' fate and the isolated patients. Their courage and friendliness, despite their situation, serves as an inspiration to the rest of us. It's not just leprosy, either: any charitable work can create a platform for both the needy and the volunteer to learn from each other and grow. Volunteering is a virtuous cycle and there's the promise of a whole lot of feel-good endorphins - even if all you have done is obnoxiously force protesting passers-by into accepting pink hats.

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