When I was an undergraduate, a friend of mine volunteered at the local crisis hotline. Although it sounded terrifying (when she first talked about it, I could not imagine doing it!), it also sounded intriguing. So, eventually, I went through their multi-week training program and began to volunteer in the phone center. And really ,really liked it. It felt meaningful, it felt valuable to my community, it felt like it was pushing me to grow. I volunteered at the hotline until I moved away.
In the years after college, I volunteered in several natural resources conservation type projects — data gathering at natural areas, educational events at science centers, that kind of thing. In my 30s, I even ended up getting a couple of jobs through volunteer projects (in one situation, I did not even DO any volunteering before I got a job — when I spoke with the woman who was recruiting volunteers she told me that the were hiring team leaders and I sounded like I had the qualifications they needed).
Recently, however, I have felt challenged finding a volunteer gig that I’m really into. This may sound a bit odd, as there certainly are a lot of non-profit organizations doing useful work that can use more help. I have done some one day things (that I’ve learned about from my local food co-op), but nothing ongoing.
In my attempts to find a volunteer project, I’ve done a couple gigs where it was mainly me in a room with a computer screen or a phone. I know that some organizations without a lot of funds do need someone alone in a room with a phone, so it is a contribution to the organization, but there was a level at which I felt I was wasting my time, that it wasn’t my best self / my actual skills that were being called on in the situation. And they both felt kind of isolating, So after each year’s commitment was over, I did not continue with either. And then there was the fall I volunteered in an after school program. And spent most of my time tracking down kids who tried to hide from me, managing incredible rudeness when I did have them all in the same room, and tracking down the employees in charge of the program to deal with the worst offenses. We almost never got to the activities I’d planned, which were supposed to be FUN. I’m not sure why the program organizers put this group of kids in the same group, they really fed off each other. I did a lot of work with kids when I was younger and I’d never dealt with a group like this! So, again, not something I wanted to do again.
But I’d still like to something . . .
I guess what I am looking for is:
- a good chance of connections with others — I feel like I can live so much in my head, and when I get stressed, my life view can narrow so that I mainly see ME ME ME and ugh, I want to take the focus away from me, to the larger world.
- some kind of team effort, not a solo activity
- something different from what I do in my day-to-day life / work
- NO SCREENS!
- something that I believe makes a difference in my community — related to conservation would be good
- and I don’t want to be in a hospital
Who has a volunteer gig that really is meaningful to you? what is it that you re involved with?