It's been on your mind. Oh, I know the feeling. Every so often you see a person, a place, or a thing, and you remember the urge. You feel that deep desire. You want it, but you don't know how it could possibly be achieved. Who would you even talk to about a matter of such delicacy? How do you disclose this secret longing to become...
Yes, it's nearing the end of National Volunteer Week 2011, and as an avid volunteer myself I'd like to extend my hugs and well-wishes to all you other volunteers. And for those who haven't taken the plunge just yet... Well, have you thought about it? Most of us do. Even with all the work on my plate, I'm constantly contemplating heaping on another position. The more positions, the better...am I right?
Honestly, it's easier than you think. "Events" are great to volunteer with because there's little commitment factor. You volunteer for the night or the weekend and that's it. If there's a cause close to your heart but you feel like you have nothing to contribute, you're wrong! Every charitable organization I've ever worked with has needed envelope stuffers. Or...imagine walking puppies for an animal shelter! If you're looking to break into a given type of employment but don't have the experience or training, there might be a volunteer position that can give it to you.
There are certain organizations that are particularly popular and have long wait lists (children's hospitals are a good "for instance") and if you're looking at frontline work with vulnerable individuals (again, working with youth in particular) that can require a police check and multiple rounds of interviews, but I work with some of those organizations and the time it took to get inside was absolutely worth the work and the wait. It's the most fulfilling work I've ever done. So if you've always wanted to [fill in the blanks] then absolutely go for it. Seriously. Go for it.
Most charitable organizations exist because there is a gap between services required for a given population and government support. Maybe the kind of organizations you care about most have been subject to funding cuts and need you now more than ever. In Canada, our wretched Harper government has hacked funding to numerable organizations. Hardest hit have been those helping women (HUGE cuts there), immigrants/newcomers, aboriginal peoples, and the environment. (Yeah, cause those populations have got it made, right? It's sickening. And the rich get richer...)
I totally didn't meant to go off on a political tangent there, but a) there's an election coming up in this country, and b) there is a huge intersection between volunteerism and personal politics. We are that to which we devote our time. If we care about something, we'll find time for it. We'll make time.
And volunteer work can be healing, too, especially if you seek out a position by thinking back on your own life and asking yourself, "When was there a time I needed help? Did I find that help? Where did I find it? Were there resources available to me? What about people in that position today? Are there adequate resources available to them?" In that way, you end up serving yourself. That probably sounds narcissistic, but I've done it and I continue to do it and there's nothing more moving than knowing I share an experiential bond with the clients I'm serving.
I'll leave my fellow Canadians with a resource called Get Involved. This website is great and it can help match you up with the kind of volunteer work you're interested in doing. At a glance, I see opportunities with...gosh, everything from Toronto Ribfest to Women in Leadership to Veterinarians Without Borders. There are postings for an Autism Therapist Assistant, Graphic Designer, Career Mentor, "Super-hero Dishwasher," Bird Monitor, Blogger, "Boys R Us" for AIDS Vancouver, Horticultural Therapist, Phone Volunteer, Writer, Vegan Products Researcher... whatever your skill set, there's something here for you.
And you know what? Finding that perfect volunteer opportunity is one of life's greatest thrills!
Best of luck, and happy volunteer week!