I first started to volunteer when I was a teenager; I was being given smaller roles and easier tasks back then . At first, I admit that I volunteered mainly because my parents were involved wherever I’d be too. I was the usual grumpy, forced kid who helped out the children at church and managed to do it without looking like I didn’t want what I was doing. Another unlikely part that brought me to volunteering was my transition from a younger teenager to an older one. It was that stage in life when I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. Not at the kids’ group nor the youth group. The solution that I came up at the end, was to help out with the younger kids instead. At that point, I believe I didn’t look like I didn’t belong anywhere anymore. I was laughing and looking silly with children and played a serious role when I’m with my fellow volunteers.
It was only about 2 years ago when I began to have a different view on volunteering. If before, I did it for myself, now, I do it for others. I’m investing in building relationships with people; giving away pieces of my heart wherever my feet leads me, conquering my fears, and inspiring people around me. Some of my few experiences would be helping the children of missionaries who lived in the war-torn areas of Afghanistan, helping out in a summer camp; staying away from home for five days and bore the extreme hot weather of the UAE and a whole lot more which I nevertheless enjoyed. All of my encounter with different people especially kids taught me to be appreciative of everyone and everything. It also gave a path for new friendships. My family truly loves volunteering and I often hear people say that they’re blessed to see us playing different roles, yet have the same goal: To touch people’s lives, through simple acts of goodness. Though there are times when I just feel lazy, when the kids enter and as I see their excitement, I can’t help but be attracted from their energy and smiles. When kids learn an important value we’re trying to impart to them, the joy heightens and stress eventually lessens.
You see, volunteering can happen anywhere at any given time. There was even this time when I got to volunteer for a summer camp which involved only local girls. Coming from the UAE, you’ll come across a lot of taboos and cultural differences. Because of volunteering, I hadn’t even felt like I was different compared to the kids I was with. Volunteering surely helped me realize the beauty of different countries and their traditions which surely helped develop that spirit of unity in me. It also instilled an attitude of acceptance towards another’s belief, background and status. Though at times, my patience is getting out of hand and the struggle to become a good volunteer becomes at stake, the moment I remember that it’s not what I try to do but what the kids get out of it, I instantly switch on my ‘best mode’. In everything I do, I make sure that I’m giving my 100% best.
Volunteering is not easy and does not always come handy. Sometimes, the sacrifice put into is way bigger than expected. You may lose that sense of comfort and break the norms. You may not always have the same ideas like others or may not achieve your goals and fail at some point. Sometimes, you don’t always get the appreciation that you expect. But in the long run, you have to realize that you are a volunteer. An amazing person who has chosen to do something for others rather than yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing a fast and easy or a long-term, complicated job, whether you do it regularly or once in a while — whether you’re appreciated or not. What matters is that you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and lent your helping hand. For me, that’s what makes a person… a volunteer.