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How Volunteering Helped Me Find My Path

Will I ever reach my full potential?

This was the question that used to keep me up at night, and it was especially persistent on paydays. I liked my old job, but I wasn’t passionate about it, and deep down I knew it wasn’t making the world a better place. Every time I got paid to do something that was only self-serving, I knew that I was moving further and further away from my true potential.

In 2010 it dawned on me that while I didn’t know how to reach my potential, I did know that staying put would never give me the opportunity to find it. So I quit and committed to a year of skills-based service.

In that year I volunteered with the American Cancer Society on its National Leadership Training Team, Relay For Life Advisory Team, as well as an Innovation Think Tank. I then traveled to Nepal to support the Nepal Wireless Initiative and some healthcare related initiatives using tele-health. I then relocated to Southeast Asia where I spent time with sustainable wood growers and coffee farmers in Indonesia. From there, I reconnected with my passion to fight cancer by supporting the National Cancer Society of Malaysia – an international partner of the ACS. Continuing south to New Zealand, I spent time with waste “up-cyclers” and then went to Argentina to finish my year of service with another social enterprise working to eliminate the idea of waste.

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When you work for free like I did, you end up gravitating to the tasks that you love the most. Actually working on specific projects and waking up excited to do more of them, showed me what really made me come alive, more so than any aptitude test would.

When I got back, my friend showed me a quote from Howard Thurman, which now has a permanent place on my heart: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Coming Alive

When I was volunteering around the world that year, I blogged about the work I was doing. Complete strangers stumbled upon my work and started to ask me for volunteering suggestions and advice. As time went on, my humble blog amassed more followers. I started helping other people who were looking to volunteer their own skills around the world. Towards the end of my trip, I met Derk Norde, an experienced social entrepreneur who had previously founded the Business in Development Network – a foundation helping small businesses access capital.

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We connected over our passion to empower small, locally-led organizations grow and make an impact. These organizations are vital to global development; they are the ones working to solve last-mile challenges and have the greatest potential to create jobs. Derk and I started to meet regularly for coffee and discuss insights and research we had collected about the best way to support these organizations. In these meetings we made a strikingly simple realization: small organizations needs expertise to grow, and people are looking to travel and volunteer their skills.

Even though our first meetings were four years ago, I vividly remember leaving those coffee chats with a strange sense of fulfillment. I realized that I had found a way to do work I loved doing, and do it for the purpose of empowering others to build a better world.

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Those coffee chats turned into formal meetings, a business plan and then our own social enterprise: MovingWorlds.org. It’s a global platform that helps people volunteer their skills around the world for any length of time. Think of it like a short-term Peace Corps for skilled professionals. From one week to one year, we help people connect directly to field organizations overseas where they can live for free while volunteering their skills. It’s a membership community that guarantees a match to a volunteering project abroad and provides training, resources, and a facilitated planning process to help you have a trip that truly makes an impact. A small membership fee allows us to staff a global support team to help you find a project that fits your skills and passions… Our entire matching site, resources, and global team was designed to help you find your potential… to help you come alive.

When I reflect back on my entrepreneurial journey thus far, I realize that the hardest step to take was the first one: To admit that I had the potential to do more, and to start looking for ways to truly make an impact. A path appears only to those who look for it.

“He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.”

– Confucius

About the blogger:

Mark Horoszowski is co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, a global platform that connects people who want to travel and volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations around the globe. Since its launch in 2011, MovingWorlds.org has already helped unleash over 1 million dollars worth of professional skills to social enterprises around the world. 

Mark holds a Master’s in Accounting and a BA in Business from the University of Washington and sits on the American Cancer Society’s Nationwide Training Team.

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