I used to hear that it was important to volunteer. I didn’t know that volunteering would help to change my life. Most of us are more blessed than we realize. A vast majority of us have a roof over our heads, a way to get to and from work, friends, food to eat, and a way to continue working. I have worked for several different nonprofits over the years and learned from each one of them. I’ve had my eyes opened to white privilege while volunteering, and it was unsettling at times.
Those who are white don’t always understand the things that are normal for us are not normal for those of color. For example, when I go to a store, I’m not usually looked at like I’m going to steal something, but several of my friends who are black have been watched like a hawk when we’ve been together. I used to work for Habitat for Humanity. Do you know I had a white person say that only black people and Muslims were accepted in the program? I wish I could have smacked them without worrying about being arrested for assault. Talk about ignorant. Any person, without regard to color, should never be grouped in a category. Society gives us labels to help define us for various reasons, a label doesn’t define a whole person. I’m labeled a humanitarian, but that doesn’t define the whole individual that resides inside of me. That’s why when I volunteer, I learn new things about various people, organizations, and how to help the community thrive.
Most organizations are always trying to raise money. This is a critical means in order for them to keep in operation. But money is only a part of the equation. Let’s say you have an organization that is trying to get started but they have a limited budget. What are some of the best ways that you can contribute your time and resources to help get them flourishing? No matter where you choose to volunteer, make sure it’s a cause that’s important to you. If you are just helping an organization just for the heck of it, you may be putting yourself in a situation where your heart isn’t in it, all you’re doing is passing time. On the flip side, if you are interested in a place but don’t know where to start, volunteering is a great way to find things that can help not only the organization but yourself, and the community as well.
I’ve seen both things occur. There are folks that I know that have volunteered with places that they knew very little about and become some of their hardest working volunteers. Some even landed jobs with those organizations. Many of them used their connections and opportunities to springboard into better positions with other companies but in virtually every case, the communities that had the volunteers were able to serve folks who needed the specified services that were provided. Sometimes, that’s the greatest gift we can give.
There are small nonprofits out there that are providing exceptional opportunities and don’t receive the recognition that other organizations share. Organizations like Empowered Girls of NC are changing lives and it’s because of their message that young women are changing the world through confidence in STEM training, that many girls who would not have received the support they have without the guidance of mentors and volunteers.
Volunteering is powerful. Why? Because it allows a person to not only give back but to keep growing the cause. Often, volunteering can be more rewarding than working for the company. When people work for an organization, many times, they have a fake demeanor. They are often there for the paycheck. That’s not always true. I’ve seen many folks there for genuine reasons but it happens. People can usually spot fakeness from a mile away. But when people engage in relevant working relationships, it’s amazing at the exposure they can obtain. That exposure can be positive or negative depending on the context in which they are represented.
The relationships that you make with volunteering is immeasurable. I can’t begin to describe the many folks that will forever be entwined in my networks. The skills that I’ve learned from other folks have been invaluable. I learned how to use a band saw and never thought I’d ever grasp that skill even though my grandfather used to make furniture. I had no interest in furniture until I met folks who made it fun. When we allow ourselves to open up to new things, there’s no end to what we learn.
That brings me to another point. When you volunteer, you build up confidence. There’s a lot of things in this world we all struggle with. What’s great about volunteering is that it gives you a buffer to build up your skillset. You don’t have to be an ace at everything in life. What you do have to do is be willing to be teachable. The rest boils down to practice and having fun.
Volunteering also helps us with our physical and mental health. There’s nothing better than volunteering when you are frustrated at the world and need an outlet. Sometimes physical labor can help put everything in perspective. I’ve actually found that when I volunteer and do a lot of physical labor that my mentality can be reverted and I can process other things that have been bugging me. In many ways, it’s a lot cheaper than therapy sometimes. And it’s productive. At the end of the day, you know you’ve done a positive thing and it makes you feel really good about yourself and the accomplishments that you helped produce.
Aside from all the other points I’ve mentioned, volunteering is a breeding ground for new ideas, creativity, growth, and creating a more united community. When we all work together, it’s amazing at what can be achieved. I’m volunteering with my church and other organizations on top of school, work, and family. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I may not be the most skilled at everything I do but I try. And that my friends, is all that matters. If we are trying to make the world a better place by volunteering our time, then we are already on a path to success. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to volunteer in any capacity. You make a difference. If you aren’t volunteering, it’s never too late. Find something that piques your interest and get involved. It won’t just change your life. It will help to change others.