It seems as though volunteerism has become a sort of “rite of passage”. It is as though it’s a phase through which teenagers pass, something they can mark as a notch under their belt. This to me is equal parts encouraging and equal parts saddening. Let me explain.
While I find it disheartening that many youths begin to volunteer not out of genuine interest, but rather to pad up their CVs, and eventually stop doing so once they have sufficiently filled up their quota; at the end of the day, they are contributing positively towards the community. Putting that aside, I want to talk about the reasons I, personally, volunteer, so as to perhaps motivate others to do so.
Growing up, one thing that I was acutely aware of is that we aren’t all given equal opportunity. I think this realisation dawns upon everyone at some point in time, but it often comes from the perspective that “there will always be someone better off and someone worse off, so you should just accept your place in the world”. It is used to placate a jealous child, or to guilt them into getting over whatever “minor” problems they might have. However, whenever I think about the people who are given less than I, I can’t help myself but think that I have been given enough to elevate them in some, albeit small, way.
So, why do I volunteer? I volunteer because I believe that I can make a difference. I believe that I can impact the world in some shape or form, and that gives me a purpose. Volunteering also aids personal growth. It exposes you to a wider cross-section of people than you are generally accustomed to, and with this comes with new ideas and new perspectives. It can help improve communication skills, and it can help teenagers understand how to work in teams to achieve a certain goal separate from the context of school.
Although I have helped refurbish furniture at the palms, and to paint murals, my primary means of volunteering resides in teaching. I think this is because my strength is academics. Not every type of volunteering is suited to every person. If you don’t like children, then maybe teaching will bring you more stress than happiness. If you aren’t physically fit or familiar with power tools, then perhaps don’t go trying to build houses. Sometimes people try volunteering and realise that it isn’t for them. This is okay. Maybe you could try doing something else which is more focused on your interests, or maybe you could find some other avenue to enact change like political activism or charity.
Either way, I think that it’s time we start to take a more active role in the development of our community.