To Volunteer or not to Volunteer..

Last night I went to a volunteer orientation for an organization that provides support to the disabled and elderly in the community. It was an interesting hour, the director provided lots of information and popped in a promo video that featured interviews with some of its volunteers and those they assist. It all sounded good, but when she mentioned that it would involve helping out at minimum once a week for at least a year, my mind reeled a bit.

Can I commit myself to that? Honestly, I’m not sure. Once a week doesn’t sound like much, but I recently enrolled in an arts class and was considering going back to yoga again! (Yes, I enjoy yoga, but lack the discipline to go. What can I say? I’m lazy! But that will change!) So that’s two days of my week and when you factor in work and how much it sucks out of you in the span of eight hours, it can be difficult to want to do much else. Also, hubby finally agreed to being open to couples dance classes once he’s finished law school, which would be great! (Or at least I think so anyway, hubby meanwhile doesn’t share my love of Latin/ballroom/swing dance, but he knows it makes me happy, so he’s willing to suffer…I mean.. ‘participate’ in dance class. Whataguy eh? ;))

The “screening” process itself for volunteers is pretty thorough, with police record checks, references and interviews with social workers. So I would have to be certain that this is what I want to do before agreeing to all this.

But providing support for those, due to age or disability, are lonely and depressed, is something that I have always been very passionate about. Maybe not as passionate as towards animal welfare or the environment, but its definitely up there. It could enable me to become more involved in the community and provide an opportunity to learn about different kind of people and their struggles, which would definitely make mine minute in comparison. Furthermore, it would get me off the couch and away from the videogames, and hopefully prevent my mind from sinking further into bitter cynicism and ruminating constantly on misdeeds. (I tend to obsess over dumb things that happened or stupid things other people have said weeks, months, years ago. Its one of my not- so great habits, well that and playing Oblivion FAR too frequently)

Anyways, they are giving us two weeks to think about it and then they will call to ask for a yes or no. Hopefully, the decision will become clearer by then. 🙂

Do you volunteer? How do you juggle it with your other responsibilities?



13 thoughts on “To Volunteer or not to Volunteer..

  1. famethrowa

    I’ve volunteered off and on in my life, but I’m currently in a “no volunteering” part of my life. Why? Because I don’t get anything out of it.

    Horrible, isn’t it? Perhaps, but I find that if you don’t *enjoy* volunteering, you can’t stick to it and it quickly becomes very painful and then you quit, disappointing people more than if you had never signed up in the first place.

    The key (big key!) is to pick a volunteer position that you like. I started with positions that did good for people in need, but I didn’t enjoy them so they didn’t stick. Then I volunteered for a while doing quite a bit of stuff for the Ottawa Ultimate Association. Did it help people in need? No, but I enjoyed it, and it meant something to me, so I stuck with it. I stopped that only because life got busy, but I could see myself going back to something like this. (For example, I’ve also volunteered at the CHEO BBQ. I enjoyed it well enough to do that again.)

    What I try now is to do things that make me a good citizen: holding doors open, letting people in stores know when something is broken or missing… stuff that other people don’t take the time to do. These things aren’t going to change the world, but I feel like I’m contributing *something*.

    But don’t listen too much to me. It sounds like you have a passion for helping people, which is something I really lack. If helping people makes you happy, do it! It sounds like the bigger problem here is the regular commitment, so maybe getting involved with events (like fundraisers or charity walks or whatever) might be more your thing: go hard for a few weeks, then take a break.

  2. XUP

    I think Famethrowa has some good points there. Don’t volunteer if you’re doing it just because you think you should or because it will get you off the couch. Especially when you have to make such a long-term committment, it should be something you’re really passionate about and believe in. Just the fact that you’re hesitating should tell you something already. One of the problems I’ve found with volunteering is that the coordinators make it too much like a job. I guess they have to in order to conduct their business in any sort of responsible way, but when you end up having to punch a clock there and attend more meetings and get hell for all sorts of stuff and get a long list of rules…okay, not all places are like that. I volunteered at Covenant House for a long time and they were great.

  3. artman2112

    famethrowa you raise an interesting point when you said you dont do it now because you dont get anything out of it. that point being that all worthwhile human endevor is a trade, not a sacrifice. servitude to another human with no type of payment (payment not just meaning money of course) in return isnt volunteer work, its slavery. slavery isnt a worthy endevor nor noble, nor justified for any reason and in the case of someone begrudgingly volunteering themselves out of some feeling of moral or social “duty”, will do no good to either party.

    Blue i think framethrowas suggestion is valid, seek out some things you can do on a limited basis that you think you might enjoy but dont require a long term commitment. maybe test the waters a bit before diving in head first 😉

  4. Pauline Post author

    Robin-Yeah me too! Its hard not to do too much though because there are so many interesting activities one can pursue!
    Famethrowa-Hmm..Short-term volunteering might be better suited to me. I will check out the opportunities online!
    XUP-Well as mentioned, I am passionate about helping the elderly and disabled, but it might also give me a chance to get out of my shell for a bit, which I could use.
    Artman-I disagree-This type of volunteering isn’t “servitude”, it involves providing emotional/social support to someone in need, which is a noble and good thing to do. The payment may not be monetary, but the happiness you feel from helping someone who isn’t as fortunate as yourself, can make volunteering VERY worthwhile!
    But you might be right about trying something that doesn’t require such a commitment. My problem is, I want to do everything and save the world and that is, obviously just not possible!

    P.S. Did you read my last post?

  5. get off my lawn

    I volunteer by helping out very casually at community events. Set up, clean up, getting things if they are needed… buying raffle tickets from every teenaged fund raiser that crosses my path. I like to keep it in the community. Bonus – there is no commitment. I do it if I’m there, if I can’t make it to the event, I don’t do it. I commit to nothing in advance.

  6. artman2112

    Pauline- you misunderstood me, i meant when someone does it despite NOT getting any happiness or enjoyment of any kind from it. i.e. it simply becomes a chore or duty to which they gain nothing from.

    i THINK i read your last post, lemme check!

  7. Pauline Post author

    Get off my lawn-That’s great! No commitment sounds like the way to go for me too (for now anyways)
    Artman-Oops! My apologies, I read the comments in a rush yesterday, but now that I have some time, yes, I do agree. Obligatory volunteering isn’t volunteering, its work (without pay obviously) and not how I want to spend my free time. 🙂

    I’ll be renting more classic movies and reviewing them, it would be great to get your feedback, seeing as how much a fan you are of them. 🙂

  8. Counter Culture Clown

    I spend most of my time working with Habitat for Inhumanity. We go around and do terrible, terrible things to douchebags.

    In fact, with used our bake sale funds last week to buy a pillow case full of door knobs, then we went and found some pedophiles to beat up. We gave those inhumane fucks a habitat… OF PAIN! BWAH HA HA heh…hee… no but seriously, I don’t volunteer.

  9. Blueberry

    I used to volunteer at a small animal shelter/rescue operation years ago. It really was a lot of work but I was glad to do it. What happened over time is that I was disturbed over some of the practices/policies there (such as automatically declawing all the cats to make them more “adoptable”), and also felt that, in the process of the managers bringing in as many animals as possible, they were unable to provide good care with the inadequate number of personnel.

    I learned a lot from the experience, and ended up taking a kitten home (making sure that it escaped declawing in the process), so it was rewarding – but I also came away with a new perspective on the size of the problem that exists. It’s frustrating and can be depressing as well.

    I guess my advice would be as others have suggested – try something short-term for starters. There are some commitments that are not easy to get out of if you decided you were burned-out or just ready for a break (and worry/guilt about how you will be replaced if you leave).

  10. andhari

    I never volunteered and I wanna try someday. Maybe with kids organization, or for animal protection. What you do is very noble 🙂 life definitely feels better if you give back.

  11. Kate

    I volunteer once a week for two hours and have been considering doing more volunteer work, but I am afraid of overwhelming my schedule. The last thing I want to do is volunteer for something (I’ve been looking into becoming a literacy volunteer) and then have to back out because my schedule is too jammed. Downtime is very important to me and I have to have enough each week or I become very unpleasant. So, for now the literacy thing is on hold. Perhaps I need to look into some things that don’t require a weekly commitment, like annual events or something along that line.

  12. Pauline Post author

    Counter Culture Clown-Sounds great! Where do I sign up? 😉
    Blueberry-I also used to volunteer at my local SPCA and I felt frustrated at times too, not so much by the organization, more by the stories of abuse and neglect that I would constantly hear. Enough to make someone (even more) bitter!
    Aandhari-Agreed! 🙂
    Kate-Something not so long-term sounds like something we both should look into!

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