I do volunteer work every weekend at a local animal shelter. A couple of weeks ago, a woman came into the room where I was brushing one of the cats and, in trying to distinguish between the full-time staff of the shelter and the volunteers, asked me, "Are you just a volunteer?" I knew she didn't mean to diminish my role at the shelter by referring to me as "just" a volunteer. She was simply trying to find someone on the staff and couldn't tell by my shelter t-shirt if I was someone with the authority to help her out. The fact is, I've often heard volunteers refer to themselves as "just a volunteer" when someone mistakes them for paid staff.
If you spoke with our shelter manager, she would tell you that our animal shelter would not be able to function and care for the multitude of dogs and cats and other pets it takes in every year if it were not for the hundreds of dedicated volunteers who work there. The same can be said about most hospitals, schools, libraries, food pantries, soup kitchens, help lines, nursing homes, and political campaigns.
This week - April 10-16, 2011 - is the 37th National Volunteer Week. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service:
National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, in unison, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals. National Volunteer Week is about taking action, encouraging individuals and their respective communities to be at the center of social change—discovering and actively demonstrating their collective power to foster positive transformation.
Do you currently volunteer or have you volunteered recently? Would you be interested in writing a diary based on your personal observations and involvement to educate others about your volunteer experience?
In his presidential proclamation this year, President Obama said:
Last year, nearly 63 million Americans gave of themselves through service. Their compassion is a testament to the generosity of the American spirit. In difficult times, Americans are coming together -- tackling our challenges instead of ignoring them -- and renewing the principle that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper.
Today, as many Americans face hardship, we need volunteers more than ever. Service opportunities tap the energy and ingenuity of our greatest resource -- the American people -- to improve our neighborhoods and our world. My Administration is committed to investing in community solutions and increasing opportunities for Americans to serve.
... During National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the profound impact of volunteers and encourage all Americans to discover their own power to make a difference. Every one of us has a role to play in making our communities and our country stronger. I encourage all Americans to help us renew progress and prosperity and build a brighter future for our Nation by visiting www.Serve.gov to find a local project.
People always talk about volunteering as if it is only about giving. They seldom talk about the benefits derived from volunteer work. In the first diary I posted for this group, Volunteering: The Best Paying Job You May Ever Have, I tried to describe how rewarding my volunteer experience has been. Volunteering allows you to gain work experience in just about any field you can imagine. It is also a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, whether you are working at an animal shelter or for a political campaign. And even though it may be a huge help to the organization or group you are working for, it can also be incredibly fun.
If you would like to join this group or write a diary about your experience as a volunteer, please let me know in the comments.