Why do I volunteer? Sometimes I do wonder. Take today, for example.
Got up very early to take the children to school. Then, I spent two hours in the car on the way to a meeting with a potential sponsor. The person I am due to meet cannot come, so sends a replacement. The replacement has no clue what I am talking about. Waste of time. Can’t work in the car on the way home because I am feeling stressed and I can feel motion sickness coming on. I get home to find I am being chased about the e-mails I promised to answer, but couldn’t because I felt sick in the car.
I try to catch up and get a Web site report updated. My Internet goes down. Try for the fifth time — at least — to call a beneficiary of some funds, to find out why they haven’t spent any of the money we donated to help them with their work. My pidgin Bahasa seems to be failing me yet again and I’ve still no idea what is going on. Kids come home and complain that mum is shouting at the computer again. Everyone is grumpy as the day draws to a close. The children are packed off to bed after a fraught dinner time spent juggling e-mails and nasi goreng. I sit down — finally — take a deep breath and wonder, “Why on Earth do I bother?”
So if some days are like that, why do I volunteer?
First and foremost, I volunteer because it benefits other people. I know that my contribution will help someone in need. A child will get his or her medication paid for, or an elderly lady will get a satisfying meal.
I also volunteer because of the benefits for me.
Many people, including myself, get a great deal of satisfaction knowing that they can make a difference for other people. And if I am totally honest, knowing that I am needed, important to someone and appreciated — well, that means a lot. And I am doing something that I truly believe in.
Volunteering gives me a purpose. In my situation in Jakarta I am unable to work, so volunteering gives me structure to days that I would find hard to fill otherwise. I can also be flexible and volunteer on my own terms. I have the ability to set my own hours based on the commitment I can make.
Without taking that first step, when I offered to lend a hand to a small charity that was short on volunteers, I would not have made the great friends that I have today. And I certainly would not have become involved in so many different activities. Little did I know that I would learn the basics of financial reporting, how to interact with very poor children and their families, or how to network effectively for successful fund-raising. I have even danced on stage and started writing this blog, two things I would never have previously considered!
I’m also volunteering with an eye on my own future. I try to practice what I know I am good at, “to keep my hand in,” as they say. I also try to seek out opportunities to learn something new. Developing a wider skill base can only be beneficial when I do have the chance to return to work.
I am also having a lot of fun.
So when I have a day like today, when I am left wondering “why?”, it does me good to remember the good I am doing for others and the good I am doing for myself.