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Haley Miller is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and a recent graduate of Oregon State University's College of Public Health

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'"

— Martin Luther King Jr.

There is no doubt that volunteering makes an impact on the lives of those served, sometimes even more than the volunteer realizes.

What may seem like a relatively small contribution can have implications and chain reactions that change lives forever.

We hear these stories all the time. What is less frequently recognized is the impact of volunteering on the volunteers themselves. The emotional reward of helping someone in need is well documented.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I have gotten to experience the benefits of volunteering firsthand. As I do my year of service with Clackamas County's only free medical clinic, Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine (CVIM), I have been able to take on responsibilities and gain valuable, career-building skills while being a part of a mission that I truly believe in.

There is something incredibly motivating about knowing that your work is truly making a difference for people who really need it.

Every day we see a growing need for clinics like CVIM, and patients tell us all the time how important these services are to them.

That importance translates to a very strong sense of purpose for me. Feeling like my time is being spent in a way that is valuable both to me and to others makes coming to work an enriching experience. I am learning about myself and honing my career goals at the same time that I am making a difference.

I have seen this same effect with the other volunteers at CVIM. People take time out of their days and spend their afternoon in the clinic, and I can see the relationships that are built and the sense of purpose that each volunteer feels.

These new connections can go a long way toward helping volunteers develop a more optimistic outlook on life and have even been shown to help combat depression.

Even in stressful times, this community of volunteers knows how to laugh, roll with the punches and support each other. It is fun to watch new volunteers develop confidence and a new sense of purpose.

Not only this, but volunteers are also learning skills and gaining experiences that are shaping their career paths. For example, our clinic manager is a former volunteer who took the initiative to get the most out of CVIM and learn the skills that translated into a paid position.

Haley MillerThere are a number of volunteers who have gotten into medical school using the experience, connections and recommendations CVIM has provided them. Other volunteers are retired and maintaining their medical or nursing licenses through hours practicing at CVIM.

There are so many ways in which CVIM works to create an environment in which volunteers are not just helping others, but also improving themselves and reaching their goals.

At CVIM the mission is to provide high-quality health care to low-income adults living in Clackamas County with no other access to affordable health care.

In order to do this, the clinic relies on not just financial support from the community, but also on a team of volunteer physicians, nurses, lab techs, scribes, interpreters, IT support and a host of other non-medical volunteers. There are lots of opportunities to help.

Volunteering has benefits for all people in all stages of life and CVIM is a great place to donate your time, build upon your skills, and do truly fulfilling work. Please consider joining us. It will be good for your health!

Haley Miller is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and a recent graduate of Oregon State University's College of Public Health. To volunteer with Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine, visit clackamasvim.org or the clinic at 700 Molalla Ave., Oregon City.


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