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The Ripple Effect

Originally posted on New American Pathways website 


All of us have had those “ah-ha” moments that take our breath away. I personally had one of those moments that forever changed my life and pushed me to commit my life to service.

When I volunteered in college at El Copprome Orphanage in Honduras, I remember a small boy crouching down playing in a muddy rain puddle. His friends were trying to push him in, and all he wanted to do was throw rocks in and watch the ripples. Seeing his enthrallment in the waves he was creating took me back to my high school physics class. We were there in the classroom, dropping pebbles in large buckets during a lesson on transferring energy. Once we “transmitted” our energy to the pebble, it turned into kinetic energy that then made the water move, creating a new current.

When I was at the orphanage volunteering, I saw my fellow classmates and the effect the volunteer opportunity had on them and me. I knew right then that I wanted to create my own current that would manifest into something sustainable and tangible. I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to use volunteerism as the medium.  In that moment, I connected the dots and became fascinated with the ripple effect. Since then, I have used that experience as a metaphor for my passion in using service for change.

Now, years later, as a Service and Volunteerism Manager and Program Director for an AmeriCorps program, I am constantly reminded that I deal with the exchange of energy on a daily basis. Volunteers embody this capacity every day, and I get the chance to utilize that energy to foster change and deliver critical services to a society of people that desperately need it. This energy, which I also like to describe as pure passion, should be nurtured, reworked, and focused, to cause an overflowing of volunteer impact. Because of these individuals, service work is forever changing and growing and multiple ripple effects are created within themselvescauses they care about, and the communities they serve.

Through the use of their own inherent energy to give back, volunteers are able to develop intrinsic values, purpose, and passions while also learning knowledge and new skills. The opportunities they experience can foster a change in perception and in the heart, and further build passion around a cause that matters to them. This is the beginning and the foundation that urges them to act and continue to seek change.

Throughout my career, due to that initial beginning, I have seen countless volunteers turn to nonprofit service as a profession, and regular citizens turn into champions of the field by becoming AmeriCorps members and board members. These individuals bring their own resources to the table that facilitate further connections between different sectors, resources, and in turn build overall capacity for the service world.

Another ripple effect of this innate energy is that on the community around them. Volunteers feel and have an intentional stake in what they perceive society should look like. That is what volunteerism is all about. It is a personal attempt to change the landscape of present circumstances. Birthed out of this space are new innovations and initiatives, new nonprofits, and changes on local and national levels. Volunteering creates a strong and cohesive society where every individual has the opportunity to take part in how they want their community to be impacted.

As a Service and Volunteerism Manager, capturing passion starts at the very first meeting, making sure the processes are in place to create an environment of growth, support, and opportunity. I am fascinated daily by the capacity of humans to give back and their undying commitment to pass it forward. There is an art to connecting an individual to a mission, a skill in marrying a passion to an action. The true grounds keepers and cultivators of this energy are volunteer managers, and they serve as the force behind connecting people to those causes. I want to continue to facilitate those experiences – because one meeting or one volunteer orientation could potentially change the course of their life, and the course of an entire community.

Energy. It cannot be created nor destroyed, only transferred. It is my duty, and all of ours in our own special way, to cultivate it and produce advocates for the field of service – and facilitate that ripple effect.


Breauna Hagan is the Founder and Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, dedicated to building stellar volunteer and internship programs for nonprofits. She is also the Service and Volunteerism Manager at New American Pathways. In her current role, she manages the volunteer, intern, and AmeriCorps program at the organization. In the past, Breauna served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, then VISTA Leader at Georgia Center for Nonprofits. She then became Programs Associate at MedShare, assisting in facilitating and coordinating over 10,000 volunteers a year. As a service-driven millennial, Breauna has provided various forms of support for volunteer programs in the areas of volunteer training, facilitation, volunteer recruitment, and retention. She is a graduate of Georgia Southern University with a degree in International Studies and holds a MPA with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University(’15 Summa Cum Laude).