Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pointers For New Volunteers !!!

Many of the youth today want to get involved in volunteer work. And it is a good thing as a lot can be achieved in society if volunteers lend a helping hand. We all may get emotional by seeing the plight of the destitute, and we also want to do something for them.

But we should also keep in mind that before going ahead, the momentum should build slowly so that it also thrives with time. I have been involved in volunteer work for more than an year and have interacted with dozens of volunteers, as I was also involved in co-ordination of the volunteer groups when I was in Gurgaon. With many of the new wanna be volunteers I have seen that initially they have a very high level of enthusiasm, but which starts fading away after 2-3 weeks of involvement. They keep getting stuck due to personal or office work. The motivation level fades away. Or they don't feel like coming for the visits etc.

And it can be due to many other factors too. But there are few things one should keep in mind before venturing into any kind of social work or volunteering, especially when one wants to work part-time like during the weekends. I would like to highlight them one by one:

1. Temptation of feel good factor: This is one of the most serious reasons which prevents the serious involvement of the wanna be volunteers. When one thinks about helping the poor or doing something for them, a "feel good" factor creeps in which is quite natural. But it shouldn't remain just a feeling. One may just do something once in a while to satisfy himself that he is doing something good, or may discuss lots of things with people. But someone needs to convert those thoughts into actions too. Just being associated with a volunteer group or NGO and doing something intermittently to feel that I am also a part of change may not actually help. One needs a reality check from time to time to see in what way one is contributing, what difference it is actually bringing in the lives of those for whom one has planned to devote his time and energy. Many of the volunteer groups get involved in more meetings, volunteer get-togethers, discussions and all but the end results become elusive. So in short one should avoid the temptation of feel good factor and actually DO SOMETHING.

2. Volunteering is not always something fashionable to do: Volunteering may not be something very fashionable to do. Sometimes it requires to do the menial tasks which normally no one would like to do but it needs to be get done. If you go inside a slum area and talk to the people there to spread awareness some of the people may treat you very roughly. One needs to get his hand dirty in doing the small tasks which may not always be liking of someone .And one should be prepared for it too. Moreover, being involved in publicity like writing newsletters, organizing exhibitions and all for fund raising, website design , strategy building and all are important, but one should also remember that all of these things revolve around a basic structure where something is actually being done for the poor and remaining of the things act as a support group.

If one is involved in any particular project then he should be ready to handle all sort of work which may involve field visits, asking for funds from people, writing articles, going to market to procure the items required etc. The most important thing is that wheels should keep rolling when one has given a start.

3. Volunteering will not be a smooth ride: One should also be cautious that being involved in volunteering will not be a smooth ride. Suppose you decide to teach a group of poor children. Initially you may get a good response from the group of children but soon you may see that their interest is wavering or they are not being as regular as you expected. So when this happens, new volunteers get frustrated and they tend to back off thinking that it is not worth the effort. But one should always keep in mind the ground realities and the conditions from where these people belong. It may take a long time to see any substantial results. Many of the new volunteers would come for 2-3 visits and will then question that they are not feeling that they are achieving anything or lack of satisfaction, etc. One needs to have a lots of patience to assess any results. Just thinking that visiting an NGO or slum area for 2-3 times and expecting results will only reduce the motivation. Bringing a change requires a struggle and one should be mentally prepared for it.

4. Volunteering requires a lot of commitment : Volunteering is no easy job especially when one wants to do it on a regular basis. If one wants to make volunteering a part of life, then it requires a lot of commitment to finding out time for it on a regular basis. Many a times one has to face a situation where one has to choose between going to a NGO on weekend or going for a movie with friends. If one really wants to devote time to help the needy then one also needs to prioritize things and should make sure that he can find out time for it. Especially like if you are involved with teaching children, then children may become very involved with you and may wait for you every weekend. But if you are able to go only intermittently then the children may lose trust. It takes time to build rapport with children or any other group of people for whom you want to work.

5. You need to find your motivation: You need to find out where exactly your motivation lies. If you are just inspired by seeing someone else doing something, the enthusiasm may soon wither off. You need to sit and analyze what you want to do and for which group of people. If you want to work for a special group of people you need to find out which will give you the most satisfaction. Some people want to work for orphans, some for old age people, some want to work with disabled, some want to work with mentally challenged, some want to work for the disabled, some want to work for preventing child labor, some want to work for women rights, some want to work for rural development, some want to work on health care for the poor etc. Question is what you want to work upon. You need to see where your motivation lies and the ways in which you can help.

I hope these points will give you few insights about factors associated with volunteering.

~~ Nishank

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