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Celebrating Through Volunteerism

by Gini Cunningham

posted in Self Improvement

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Volunteering is an awesomely rewarding avenue for sharing wisdom and building personal strength. Having taught for many years, upon retirement I sought new ways to extend my talents while helping others. Volunteering met my calling and has become a wonderful answer to filling and fulfilling my time. There are so many people in need or projects at hand. There are a few tips, however, to ensure that your volunteer hours are well spent and provide empowerment to you as well as to those you serve.
Consider your priorities for volunteering. Do you prefer pets over people, the impoverished over those who just need a small lift, or children as compared to adults? Teaching literacy is a fantastic opportunity to assist another person, but you have to decide is kindergarten the ideal setting where you can work one-on-one supervising a young reader or do you prefer adults, those who perhaps dropped out of school, entered prison instead of the work force, or are second language learners? If people drive you to distraction with whines and barks but dogs thrill your inner being as you wash them into glossy coats, walk them through the park, or help with pet adoption, you know which volunteer option is best for you.
Next think about the people with whom you will be working. Does your direct supervisor respect you, your intelligence, and your abilities or does s/he view you as a workhorse for projects that no one else wants to do? Do those with whom you are working share values and conditions in common? That does not mean 100% lock-step agreement, but rather individuals who will work as a team, share insight and ideas, and value your input as well. When the team sits together to create a vision with clear goals and objectives with everyone working at personal capacity, the project or program is certain to excel, offering many internal benefits to you and external benefits to others.
Does the volunteer work you are considering offer flexibility? After all, you probably did not retire from your profession to volunteer full-time for free. There are other luxuries in life to enjoy like a spouse or significant other, children and grandchildren, travel, and adventure. It is a horrific scene to become so bogged down in someone else's work that your personal autonomy disappears. Whip out your calendar, examine days where you are at liberty to offer time to others, sketch out the hours in the day that you can volunteer, and mark down other responsibilities including personal time for yourself. Now you have a better picture of just how much "free" time you have and where you can best serve.
Finally, you are working as a volunteer which may include paying for your own travel, purchasing supplies from your own pocket, and even donating money to the cause. Can you afford to do this? Do you need to set some parameters? Will your money be well spent in helping others while empowering you? Also, your supervisor may be in a paid position while you toil for nothing but internal rewards. How do you feel about this? Will you resent the "dirty" work you complete while the boss manages the telephone and computer? Mutual respect is important; your sense of value is of the essence.
Volunteering is a terrific opportunity to meet, greet, travel, explore, and learn. You may be surprised at your capacity to help others, whether they are animals, people, or distant faces and places. While you did not sign up to volunteer to become richer in the monetary sense, you should gain assets filled through your wisdom, ideas, instincts, and abilities. Above all at the end of the day, even through worry and frustration, you need to feel accomplishment. You need to be ready to jump up in celebration.
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