A little while ago I posted a blog about the volunteer work that I’m doing as part of a team here in Adelaide. I’ve had a lot of response to that blog (much more than to any other blog I’ve written) and so I thought I’d write this as kind of a follow up. Think of this as my own personal petition in favour of volunteering.
First of all, why is it that volunteers are so rare, and so hard to come by? The answer to that is quite simple: money. There’s no immediate money to be made as a volunteer, and in today’s society we’re usually either doing one of two things: either we’re working to earn money, or consuming the money that we’ve just earned. Volunteering is a complete step outside of that mindset, and many people subconsciously choose to ignore the concept altogether for those reasons.
Being a volunteer can actually be profitable financially, despite the fact that you don’t cash a pay-cheque every two weeks. Most volunteer jobs provide you with excellent experience that looks great on your CV, and build in experience that you can’t get any other way. For example, as a business student, I know the importance of networking and how it can help you find a job. While I’m out with Street Care, I meet so many people from so many different backgrounds that it helps me build up my skills in the areas of meeting people, and making small talk with them. In addition, in my job with the Childhood Cancer Association, I spend most of my time trying to find volunteers for our events staff. Again, it’s an excellent way for me to gain experience in meeting people and getting them to buy into a cause and an idea that I’m very passionate about.
If I’m being completely honest,however, I must admit that I don’t do any of my volunteer work for the actual experience that I gain. It’s a nice little bonus, but realistically I do it because I feel like I have been really blessed in my life, and I feel like it’s my duty to give something back and to help others. A few weeks ago I met a homeless man during Street Care. When I first approached him he said that his name was Steve, and he was really interested in our program and what we were doing. I asked him if he was hungry and he said he was, so I offered to buy him a meal and he gladly accepted. He ate half the meal, and then gave the other half to one of his homeless friends who happened to walk by. It was really an eye opener to me to see someone with so little offering to help someone else.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Steve came to church for the first time. I was talking to him afterwards, and he said that he had recently had all his possessions stolen, and that he was left with nothing. A couple friends and I spent hours trying to convince him to go to detox to sleep off his current state, and after a lot of discussion, he finally agreed to go. After dropping him off, my friends and I agreed that we should go and buy him some things that he could use to get by. We bought him some canned food, clothes, pillows, a sleeping bag, a backpack, and some other things as well. By the time we were done with all this, our Sunday afternoon was pretty much gone, and I myself was pretty hungry, because I hadn’t had the chance to have lunch yet.
After I had returned to my apartment, I sat down and thought for a second “now why exactly did I just do that?” I realized that I had been spending a lot of time working hard as a volunteer to help others, and yet I had never actually sat down to quantify why I do it. After some time spent in thought, I came up with the following statement, which I posted on my Twitter (@CanAdelaidian) and on my Facebook: “We need to go from thinking about caring for others as a chore, to a privilege and an honour.” It’s a statement that really gets to the heart of the matter around not only volunteering, but just simply helping and caring for others.
You see, it’s not about personal gain, adding experience or looking good in front of others. The reality is that we have been blessed with many gifts and skills that can be used to help others, but we get too self-focused to realize that helping someone else is not a chore. Rather, it’s an opportunity. That person that you can help has been placed in your hands, and you should be honoured to be able to help improve their circumstances. The fact is that we only have so much time on this earth, and the more that we can help others while we’re here, the better. I mean, how great a gift is it to have someone else’s life and circumstances in your hands?
This thought process is why I love helping people like Steve, the Childhood Cancer Association, and the kids that I lead at church. I, as an individual, get an opportunity every day to use my education, my personality, and my abilities to help improve the quality of someone else’s life and I am absolutely honoured to be able to do that. It’s an amazing gift and a privilege for me to be able to help someone to greater heights, and it’s a wonderful gift to receive when people help me as well.
There are so many ways that you can get involved and help others that I can’t begin to list them all here. If you’re reading this from Adelaide, you should contact myself on Twitter (@CanAdelaidian) to ask about joining our events team at the Childhood Cancer Association or contact Volunteer SA to look into what opportunities might be right for you. If you’re reading this from Ottawa, two amazing organizations to help are CHEO, and Roger’s House, but there are many, many more that you can look into. Please also feel free to leave any questions in the comment section below if you don’t use Twitter.
Please note that I’m not suggesting that everyone run themselves off their feet in order to be a volunteer. However, there are ways that you can help others with your talents and skills that can of be benefit to someone else, so please look within yourself and think about how you can help. Once we change our mindset from looking at helping others as a chore, to an honour and a privilege, it changes our entire perspective.
For more information on voluteering go to: