University life is much more than just going to classes and taking examinations. Volunteering is a great way to make your university years an enriching one, Marcella Purnama writes.
When I was 18, I signed up to volunteer at an event held by Make a Wish Foundation.
It is an organisation dedicated to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. That day, under the heat of the sun and the cold of the wind, other fellow volunteers and I ventured the streets of Melbourne and asked for coin donations from the pedestrians.
A couple of months later, I joined Cancer Council Victoria and assisted them to sell merchandises on Daffodil Day 2010. I walked around five blocks in University of Melbourne complex with a partner, and together we raised quite a handsome sum of money, selling teddy bears, pins, pens, and flowers to students.
Then I helped Multiple Sclerosis Society on their annual MS Charity Ball event at one of the best hotels in Melbourne. I was placed at the front door, ushering guests to their seats and indicated where the toilet was or where they could hang their coats.
My purpose? To beautify my resume, of course. I have filled my education section, but internships? Work experiences? Volunteering activities? Zero.
Here’s the irony: in order to find a job, you need work experiences. Then again, you need work to get experiences that you need.
So I decided to volunteer. By the end of 2010 I joined a nonprofit international students news website as a young journalist and despite not being paid, I ended up being there for another two years. I can tell you now that my previous volunteering activities landed me this volunteering gig, and that this volunteering gig got me a job after graduation.
Volunteering shows that you are dedicated to a purpose greater than yourself. It shows that you are not selfish, that you somehow have gained experience without work. But yes, it’s not always noble.
The work itself varies. One day, you can be a real player on the field who teaches underprivileged children English. Another day, you are doing no-brainer tasks such as data entry, asking donations on the streets, or guarding the organisation’s booth to sell merchandise.
Of course, no one wants their precious time to be wasted on doing something menial, but these things need to be done. Someone still needs to do the dirty work, and not everyone can get noble volunteering experiences.
I know, I have done my share. I don’t even know if what I’m doing is going to contribute to the community at large. I just somehow need to trust that whatever I’m doing will benefit if not the people, at least the organisation. Besides, volunteering is not always about you, it’s about them.
Many people don’t want to volunteer because it will put them at a loss. Loss of time. Loss of energy. Loss of money. It’s funny because we often mix up this concept. “Why should I be doing something that is not going to benefit myself?” we often ask. Really, it’s a waste of time, for one, and it’s an unpaid work, for two. I could have just allocated those precious hours in doing something else. Even sleeping and watching TV are more grandeur than doing data entry.
But without volunteering, you’re missing out chances to help people.
So why do I volunteer?
Apart from making an impression on my resume and getting experience on many different fronts, I don’t have a concrete answer. I just believe that whatever I’m doing, even though it’s a no brainer, will be useful for the organisation I’m volunteering for. You’ll feel good for doing good, and somehow, that’s enough.
Photo Credits: “Red Cross Volunteer” courtesy of Andrea Booher, ”Volunteering” courtesy of Suriya Thonawanik