Up until a little over a year ago, I never really saw volunteering as something I would ever be able to be wholeheartedly involved in myself. I always had so much respect for those who did, but I always figured why not do the same thing, but get paid for it? All my naive self saw at that stage was a friend volunteering so they’d have something to put on their resume because they’d never bothered to go out and properly look for a job when they were younger. (In this instance I instead went for the route of getting my lifeguard qual and getting a job that way.) All I saw was people volunteering to have one of their own personal needs or wants met in the long run. There was always a selfish reason to them giving up their time, and even though there isn’t anything that wrong with this, to me that wasn’t what volunteering was about, and to me I was better off not doing it at all if this was what I was going to do as well. If that was all the volunteering I had access to, I was better off without it.
I’d been working for YMCA Victoria at an aquatic and rec centre for about two years when my team leader at the time asked me to go on a leadership camp called UNO-Y (pronounced you know why). I never in my wildest dreams thought of myself as a leader in the slightest. I was that quiet girl in the back that blended into the background purposefully and just did as she was told. I was flattered at the fact that I was the first person that two people immediately thought of when this opportunity arose. And so I went. (Let me know if you’d want a separate post on this. I could go on for years about it!)
This camp changed my life 100%. I came back a woman who believed that she could, a woman who believed in herself and her leadership skills as opposed to the quiet girl in the back. And all the volunteers on this camp were volunteers. They gave up an entire week of their time to go on camp with us – an entire week of full on days and endless nights full of meetings when we were all in bed. I never knew that this side of the YMCA existed before this camp, and one of the first things I did was ask questions on how I could get involved. The second was (successfully) apply for the position of Duty Manager at my centre – yep, this one week changed my life that much.
I went on a training weekend not long after I got back, and so far have managed to get myself onto volunteering on two camps. The most recent of which was just this past weekend for families of grandparents that have sole custody of their grandkids for whatever reason. These families have been through so much in their lives – the kids have all had such hard lives, and the grandparents are the strongest people I know – raising their grandchildren when they should be enjoying their older years. It was so incredibly rewarding to be able to see the difference we made at the end of the weekend. It is so rewarding to be able to give back to both these families that are so strong and the organisation that changed my life and continues to change so many other’s lives on a daily basis. (peep my insta pic here for a cute group photo from this weekend!)
If I knew this kind of volunteering existed a couple of years ago, I would’ve been involved quicker than anything. This is the thing that was missing in all those who volunteer to meet their own ends – you need to find the thing that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling inside because you helped make other people’s day a little better. You need to find that thing that you don’t need to get paid for to do because what you got out of it is more than any amount of money could give you. You need to fall in love with it, and that is exactly what happened to the hundreds of vollies that volunteer for the Y. We do it because we love it and we can make a genuine difference. I started volunteering so I could give back some of what I’d gotten out of being a participant on one of their camps, and not only do I get the satisfaction of fulfilling this, the participants on these camps give me so much more than they could ever imagine each and every time.
I love love love volunteering for the Y, and I could go on about it for years and years. And that is the story of how this skeptic turned into a massive advocate for both the Y (that I thought was just a workplace to get money from) and volunteering.
Peace, love and rainbow dreams,