THE SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERING
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“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” –Barrack Obama
The 5th of December is celebrated every year as the International Volunteers Day by the United Nations. It is a day in which volunteers and volunteerism is celebrated and recognized in all its facets. As a volunteer, I would love to share a few things about being a volunteer.
Generally a volunteer is a non salaried worker; someone who spends his valuable time doing something that will benefit a person, a group of people, or the society in general without expecting any remuneration.
I have a passion for children, their safety, welfare and respect for their rights. Having done some little projects to make this world a better place for children, I decided to work with an NGO that deals with children. I remember the first day I went to the office of an NGO to apply for a job as an intern where I could be paid some little stipends or as a full staff where I’ll earn money full time. I met the program officer and explained to her that I came seeking for a job. She was quite welcoming. She told me the scope of their work and various things I could do with them but throughout our discussion, she kept using the word “volunteer.” She kept saying you can volunteer with us to do this and do that....
In the back of mind, I said to myself that there is no chance of me getting a paid job here. The activities she mentioned were quite interesting and appealing, that I could not allow this opportunity pass me by just because I will be working as volunteer. The next day we finalized discussions on what is expected of me as a volunteer and I started working. From then until now, I have enjoyed every bit of my work. I have gained a rewarding experience, worked with experts in the field, learned valuable skills, built my self esteem and self confidence, made new friends and important contacts, gained access to valuable information, made a difference in peoples’ lives and contributed to the safety and welfare of children. I can say I work even more than some paid staff but since I really have passion for what I do and do it with so much love in my heart, I’m not bothered by that but I go home happy everyday knowing that I’m doing something good. Sometimes I even say I should be the one paying the NGO for giving me such a rare opportunity to work with them. If I kept looking for a paid job, I would probably never have had an opportunity like this.
When I tell some of my friends where I work, the first question they ask is how much are you being paid? Whenever I say I am a volunteer without any paid salary; I get responses filled with satirical statements. Some make it very clear that they can never do that. I always conclude by saying, I’m not really bothered about doing unpaid service because I enjoy every single bit of the work I am doing. As a kid, I always promised myself that when I am all grown up and rich, I will use my money to serve mankind and do all sorts of charitable acts but now I realize that I don’t need to wait till then before serving mankind. As a volunteer, I am already serving mankind, doing my best in my own little way to make this world a better place. As Mother Teresa once said “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
The act of volunteering is more common in the western world and developed countries than it is here in Nigeria and some developing countries because most people are cash oriented and there aren't many open volunteering opportunities. Nevertheless, we still have some dedicated volunteers doing the best they can do. In the words of Ban Ki Moon, the United Nations Secretary General,
“Volunteerism is a two-way street. Even as volunteers help generate positive change for others, their own lives are often transformed by the act of volunteering itself. On this International Volunteer Day, let us renew our commitment to offering young people diverse and meaningful volunteer opportunities to become active and confident contributors to global change.”
To all the young volunteers out there, I always pray for you all and encourage you to keep doing your good work with so much love in your hearts. I would love to read your stories and urge you to share with us how volunteering has been beneficial to you.
In the spirit of volunteerism I declare that I am young, global, active and proudly a volunteer. The fact that I am not paid does not mean I am worthless, it just means I am priceless.