Volunteering is incredibly important to me. In a day and age where people cynically bemoan how selfish our society has become, it is living proof that there is still plenty of selflessness out there.
I was first introduced to volunteering through Cub Scouts. As a kid who saw bullying first hand on the school yard and was helpless to stop it, I saw volunteering as a way to help fight bigger grown-up bullying. I knew that selling apples on Apple Day wasn’t going to fix the problem, but I knew I was helping out, and it felt good to finally be part of the solution rather than a helpless bystander.
When I was 18, I volunteered with Youth Challenge International for 8 weeks in Koforidua, Ghana. I was a bit of an anomaly in that I had no university education (I was going into first year later that year) and had no formal training in the field I was entering. Initially, as I met my other colleagues on project, I thought this would be a handicap that I would have to learn to work around. I quickly learned however, that I had a different kind of experience that I would come to find more useful than anything I could have learned in a classroom; I had experience volunteering.
Devoting your time to someone you know is hard enough – devoting it to someone you’ve never met, or never will meet is harder still. However, through my years in Scouts and in high school volunteering at countless projects and events for many different organizations, I learned how to do just that. I learned that half the fun in volunteering is the joy and camaraderie of spending your time accomplishing a task with others. Whether you’re stacking books at a book sale, participating in a Halloween food drive, or running the school leadership camp, at the end of the day what and where you helped becomes less important than the fact that you just got out and helped.
Volunteering in Ghana was a treat in that while normally a book drive lasts half a day, a leadership camp a weekend, this was eight weeks – fifty six days – of volunteering. By no means was it a utopian experience. There were some incredibly tough times and I went to bed on several occasions wishing it was all just a nightmare that I could wake up from the next morning. They don’t tend to advertise that part of the experience.
But being in Ghana changed me for the better. It was the ultimate volunteering experience because it forced me to commit to a project long after the novelty wore off and the perpetual hunger set in. Through my experience in Ghana my appreciation for what volunteering can mean has increased tenfold. Through the actions I witnessed I now have a passionate belief in the extraordinary capacity human beings have for selflessness. We are often reminded of all the appalling deeds humans are carrying out, but not so often of the generous, kind-hearted ones.
Volunteering is important to me because it showcases the best the human species has to offer and reminds us that there is and always will be hope for a better future.
– David Caughey, Youth Ambassador, Ghana 2012