Education nonprofit buildOn's students combat Holiday loneliness through community service

Service: Healing Holiday Loneliness

For many, the holidays are a season of light, a time to celebrate with family and friends and reflect on the past year. For them, December is a month of giving, one that reminds us of the best of humanity.

But for others, the holiday season can be a bittersweet time. For those without family or friends to celebrate with, seeing others doing so can amplify their feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

More and more Americans feel this way each December. According to the Surgeon General’s 2023 report on loneliness, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. reported feeling lonely or socially isolated. This figure is even higher for certain demographics, including older adults and those living in rural areas.

This loneliness is detrimental not only to a person’s mental health, but their physical health as well. It can increase their risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, depression, and even premature death.

It’s not hard to see why more and more people are feeling lonely in today’s world. With the rise of social media and smartphones, many people are losing their connection to their communities, their neighbors, and even their own family members. 

But there’s a powerful antidote to feeling lonely and disconnected from your community: service.

Giving back can be the key to unlocking joy and connection during the holidays. By stepping outside of ourselves and focusing on the needs of others, we forge bonds, build purpose, and discover a deeper sense of belonging.

“Some people may not have family, some people they don’t communicate [well]. So helping them, giving them care, that’s going to… encourage them.”

Fatou Barry, buildOn Bronx Student

buildOn alumnus Othello Herbert shared how service can connect us beautifully in his speech at our 2023 Gala: “In those moments of connection, whether making sandwiches in the U.S. or building schools abroad, we discover the essence of our shared humanity.” He said. “ It is about recognizing that the person receiving the help is also offering something invaluable—a glimpse into a different reality and a reminder of our interconnectedness.”

And, as it always does, the power of service to connect us goes both ways. Through the service projects buildOn students undertake, members of their community who may be feeling isolated can receive some much needed love and compassion as well.  

“Some people may not have family, some people they don’t communicate [well]. So helping them, giving them care, that’s going to help them… these care packages will encourage them.” Fatou Barry, a buildOn student in the Bronx, said about a service project to make care packages for a local women’s shelter.

“I feel like people don’t communicate as much. They don’t have a social life, so I think by us doing service in the community, it shows they can start interacting with one another.”

Khalil Jerrell, buildOn Bronx Student

All across the country, communities that have historically suffered from higher levels of poverty and a lack of resources are coming together, bit by bit, through buildOn service projects. In a time when people are more often than not glued to their phones, service makes them look up and really see the people around them. 

This is something buildOn students understand deeply: “I feel like people don’t communicate as much, says Khalil Jerrell, another buildOn Bronx student. “They don’t have a social life, so I think by us doing service in the community, it shows they can start interacting with one another.” When we work to establish a culture of service in a community, everyone in the community benefits and becomes closer with their neighbors.

The holidays are about more than just gifts and decorations. They’re about giving back, spreading joy, and finding connection. And there’s no better way to do that than through service.

Will you support buildOn’s work to transform communities through service? Bring joy to those who need it most this holiday season by making a tax-deductible donation today.