#TeamTuesday this week presents Nat Crewe. He is a very valued member of the BPM team, volunteering his time with the Earthquake response and a volunteer trip this year, as well as being a part of the Disaster Response Group. His reflection speaks for itself…
What makes a good volunteer? Is it the completely selfless motivation to help others, the ability to put aside one’s personal requirements and put the needs of others before your own? Is there an expectation to sacrifice something of ourselves, be it material goods, personal safety or even emotional wellbeing? Possibly. In part. But we’d burn out pretty quickly. We’re not an infinite resource. We can’t keep giving until there is nothing left to give.
You read about the experiences of most of our Kerasawara volunteers, and they will use terms like ‘life changing’ and ‘life affirming’, and how the experience enriched their lives, gave them perspective, how they learnt so much about others and themselves. Indeed, it would almost seem that our volunteers are getting just as much, if not more, out of this relationship. Because that is what it is – a wonderful symbiotic relationship. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, quite the opposite. You are going to be a much more effective, willing and capable volunteer if certain personal needs of your own are being met.
Think of why you want to go to Nepal. Is it to simply to apply your much needed skills in a remote clinic and guide the local kids towards a healthier and richer future? Surely not. You’re fascinated by a distant culture, perhaps unknown to you. You’re thrilled by the idea of travel, of trekking through famous mountains, of testing your own personal limits and boundaries. And it’s by meeting your own personal expectations that you are then invigorated and motivated in the work and energy that you put into your volunteering. To put it simply, of course it’s desirable that you be getting something out of volunteering. The more you get out, the more you’ll put in.
And when it comes to our approach to the volunteering itself, sometimes we’re guilty of placing too high an expectation on ourselves. There is absolutely no way that we can arrive in a foreign place and turn things around in two weeks. But remember that you are part of large and dedicated team, that little by little, visit after visit, is making a massive overall difference. Indeed, your trip will probably be defined by one or two standout moments rather than daily breakthroughs. On our visit Tina and Amy ran the most extraordinarily successful women’s sexual health evening. I coordinated a training day with the Kerasawara Rescue Team. Along with Kenny, Tina and Amy, we completely reorganized the stores and overhauled the community room. Small achievements on their own, but all part of the larger, ongoing picture.
For you, it might be the glowing smiles you get every morning from the beautiful local kids, that one treatment that makes all the difference, a day helping around the village. Whatever it is, however small it seems to you, it’s huge in the grand scheme of things. It’s you, giving of yourself. But getting so so much in return.