Volunteering is for everyone, even you

While enjoying a hot cup of coffee, a cupcake and some good conversation with a Swedish friend of mine, this article was birthed. My friend had just completed a short trip in Cape Town volunteering at a children’s hospital and we were having a debrief session about the whole experience and her thoughts after this, as she was about to board a plane in a couple of hours. I am someone who deeply believes in volunteering and the general idea of being selfless with ones time. Having said that I am also very protective over my fellow South Africans in these vulnerable situations which I guess is why my job gives meaning to my life.

My friend shared with me that some people back home don’t understand the power in volunteering, as many regularly donate to organisations that work in Africa and Asia, and they are provided with an image to see where their money went and many are ok with doing just that.  She mentioned that this is frustrating for her because in her view everyone needs to step out of their comfort zone and go volunteer somewhere. I won’t lie, donations and fundraisers go a long way and change the lives of many. I like to think I am a visual person so I will paint an image for you to understand what I am trying to explain. Let us take the example of one of our past volunteers who fundraised for school shoes; she generated a lot of donations from her home country and managed to buy the children school shoes. That was no doubt a great initiative as many didn’t have proper school shoes and now going to school becomes a little bit more exciting for them. That is an example of the power of a donation. Now let us take the same kids, they are living in a shelter, some with no hope of going home, some feeling alone and isolated in this world but then along comes a volunteer into their lives; a volunteer that will take time to ask them what is wrong when they are sad, a volunteer to play with them, a volunteer to help with homework. As much as the things I have listed feel like small things you have no idea of the impact it makes in their lives, they feel valued, they feel special and they feel like they have a big brother or big sister -something they can’t get from the staff. It is not just about the children but personal growth and development; you grow as a person and learn so much from being at a certain volunteer placement. I can also tell you the staff love having volunteers because it provides their children with a different experience, they learn about diversity and cultures and also that they may meet many good people in life who have to leave at a certain point because of their paths but that doesn’t mean they should shut down but rather open up to many more great opportunities that will come after that.

Also to my locals reading this, volunteering doesn’t just have to be for foreign nationals -even you can make a difference in a life. I ran a program with some girls at a shelter and I was deeply moved at how they were so open to the idea of creating projects to help other people as well. One of the girls told me something most of us know but don’t think about enough, “I learnt in life I could be crying because of my situation and might think it is terrible but once I wipe my tears I am always surprised that even in the worst situations there’s always someone who has it even worse than me.” With that said they understood there is always something they can do to help even if they live in a shelter. Their position does not define them. Even you reading this wherever you are you can always touch someone’s life. Get involved and volunteer.
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