Why I Volunteer

Danny Solis | 8/1/2018

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Our world is far from perfect. There are problems that require capable people to organize and work toward solutions. That work often comes with no tangible benefit to those offering to help. So, why do volunteers dedicate so much time to worthy causes? I can't speak for everyone, but I'd like to offer a few points as to why I perform and promote volunteer work.

Yes, volunteering feels good. Many find a sense of fulfillment through altruism. But, I believe there are may be more practical reasons to offer a helping hand.

If We Don’t, Who Will?

Have you ever witnessed a situation where someone else needed help? You had the opportunity to assist but didn't for whatever reason. Maybe, you were too busy. Perhaps, you thought there were plenty of other people willing and available to help. Or, maybe you thought there was nothing you could do. What if everyone had the same thoughts? What if you were exactly the right person to offer your time and talent, especially for a cause you truly care about? It's easy to dismiss a community issue as someone else's problem. But sooner or later, we find that these issues persist and become pervasive, unless we get involved. Until we find permanent solutions, it's volunteers that must champion these causes. The alternative is nobody acts and our world is the lesser for it.

Stop expecting others to act first, be the one who makes a positive change. – Leon Brown

It’s Not Difficult

Charities need a wide range of skills in order to function. In some cases, the work is highly skilled or specialized – pilots transporting rescued animals, counselors hosting support groups, lawyers taking cases for low income victims. But for the most part, volunteer work consists of a group of people coming together to do simple tasks that help accomplish a larger goal. It's not rocket science. It doesn't take an advanced degree to make phone calls, distribute pamphlets, or help clean offices. Larger charities will retain a full-time staff to conduct day-to-day operations. Volunteers provide critical resources to expand operations beyond the capacity of full-time employees. A charity will never ask a volunteer to perform duties that are overly complex, or physically burdensome. Most organizations will post work that needs to be done and allow volunteers to sign up for tasks. This allows you to choose work as you see fit, or even select work that fits your existing talents. In any case, volunteering means providing services to the best of your capabilities, nothing more.

Putting Talents to Good Use

I enjoy photography. It's been a hobby of mine, off and on, since I was a teenager. My skill level is amateur at best. To be good at anything takes commitment, patience, and most importantly practice. Finding opportunities to practice our talents in the real world can be challenging. Volunteering our skills can afford us the chance to become better at what we do. The knowledge and experience gained reflects well on a resume or CV. If anything, it makes for a great story when someone asks how you learned your craft. More importantly, the charity you support receives the benefit of your talent to advance their work. It's a win-win situation. I never thought I'd get the chance to apply my passion for photography toward a good cause. But to my delight, the shelter's web site listed a need for photographers and I jumped at the opportunity. If you have a specific talent or skill, chances are a charity needs your expertise.

Everyone Has a Cause

All of us in our lifetime have experiences that bring us profound joy and happiness, or possibly fear and heartache. It's these experiences that shape our character and personality. We cherish the times of joy and we do our best to cope in times of tragedy. To do either alone is selfish or futile. I've adopted two dogs in my lifetime. The joy they bring me and my family can't be measured or fully expressed in words. At the same time, I fear for the millions of dogs and cats that might not enjoy the care and safety that only a good home can provide. When I play with my dogs, when I see them eat a good meal, when I see them sleeping peacefully, I know that I've done something truly meaningful for them that I fully get back in return. I can't rescue every dog and cat in every shelter across America (it has crossed my mind). But, I can do my part to help. During my time volunteering at local shelters, I've seen hundreds of dogs and cats go home to loving families. While I'm not directly responsible for any of those adoptions, I know that I played a small part to help make it possible. This is my cause. We all have one. When there's a personal connection to our cause, the commitment runs deeper. We can effect positive change for our causes when we help spread the joy, alleviate the heartache, or both. When searching for a volunteer opportunity, you could start with a charity that supports a cause that you connect with on a personal level. You'll find your motivation that much stronger knowing you helped others with similar life experiences.

Good Will is Reciprocal

I'll leave you with one last thought. If I ever found myself in need due to some unforeseen misfortune, I would hope there were people willing to lend a hand. I may never need help from a volunteer organization, but that's not the point. It's enough to know that help is available for me or someone I care about. That includes my beloved Shih Tzus. A volunteer never expects anything in return for their time. But, it shouldn't come as a surprise when we feel a sense of fulfillment for our efforts. And you never know, the reward for your generosity may just be a helping hand extended your way, when you need it most.

You do have the time, talent, and energy to champion a cause. A little help goes a long way. My hope for you is to find your calling to help make the world a better place.

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