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How Volunteering Turned out Not to Be the Thing for Me

Updated on November 24, 2018

It is not easy to confess that volunteering just is not the thing for you. As a person that firmly believes that helping others is one of the best things that you can do, admitting that you are now discouraged from pursuing other volunteering opportunities is, I admit, more difficult than it looks. I am not completely going to take volunteering off the table in the future, it’s just that I need a break.

Past experience with volunteering

I would like to consider myself a lucky child. Growing up I was able to pursue education, have a supportive family and be able to give back some of the things that I used while growing up (be they toys, clothes that I grew out of, old books etc). Back in high school there were yearly donation events, where we were encouraged to come and donate old books for children from orphanages or from disadvantaged families. I admit that I did not think much of what I was doing back then. My simple reaction to these types of announcements was “Oh, I have some books that I don’t read anymore, maybe they would want them”. Replace the word “books” with clothes or toys and that sentence will still be relevant.

So, why am I telling you this? Well, just to let you know that growing up I did not care much for volunteering yet I participated simply because I wanted to share what I had. What is the point in owning something if you will never use it again and you know that somebody else would love to have access to it? I guess that was pretty much my whole thought process. I have to admit, my parents were not too happy with me being in such a giving mood but they were not against it, as long as I was not asking them for money to buy stuff that I will donate. A bit complicated, but let’s not dwell on that.

Volunteering in College

See, when I finally got into college, I decided to become more aware of what volunteering options were available to me. I did not do that purely out of innocent reasons, I knew that at one point during my second year I would need some certificate which would attest that I was either working within my field or doing some volunteer work. And, being the type of person focused on her studies, I opted for volunteer work.

Now, what next? Well, I decided to become a volunteer with my college’s student association. I was so excited because I used to see them everywhere, doing their best to help new students fit in. With some hard work on my part and some time spent on their part before letting me in, I was finally a volunteer.

I was so excited. It is hard to put into words just how much I loved to be part of there. I was so excited to help students that were just starting out. I knew what standing in their shoes was like, utterly confused about what and where to go next. And it all worked out beautifully. I would go to all of the events that the student body would organize. I was there body and soul, so to say.

However, I slowly started to see the truth behind the pretty picture. Yes, things were working out and the volunteers were doing their work. Before I go on, in order for my story to make sense, I will have to explain the structure of the student body a bit.

Structure of the student body

The student body is made up of four huge departments: Human Resources, Public Relations, Student’s Office, and Fundraising. Each of these has coordinators and each department has many other small teams within it, each with a team leader or two.

I soon saw that the coordinators and the team leaders seemed to act more “high and mighty” so to say than other volunteers. It was this of feeling small if you were not in an important position within the student body. It was the idea of feeling left out, both metaphorically and personally. Yet, I understand why that happened. It’s the vicious circle of people influencing other people that are close to them, it is the pack mentality or even that moment when you are surrounded by yes men and feel that you can do no wrong.

Why did I Stay?

Of course, if you got to this point, you are now asking yourself why I stayed. Well, I needed them. I needed that certificate to cover my hours. It’s pretty simple and a bit selfish on my part. Yet, while I stayed I saw how it really is. The perfect way to shatter the pristine image of a student body is to go behind the scenes and see how there are chat groups where students that ask not so bright questions get ridiculed, how some students get ignored altogether if a volunteer does not want to deal with them and so on and so forth.

I now understand why seniors scoffed when I told them I was part of the student body. I now get how a perpetuated image can be like a double-edged sword.

Why Am I telling you this?

Well, I admit, I wanted to get this story off my chest. I am currently still in this student body yet I stopped being an active member months ago. I am patiently waiting to be kicked out. You may want to ask me, why did I not do something? Well, it is hard to do something, albeit trying multiple times, since you get faced with this brick wall that you just can’t seem to get over. It’s either being like them or being against them which, you know, can be a metaphor for many other things in life.

Why did I tell this story? Well, I want others to know that it’s not wrong to prioritize your own needs. Maybe you have experienced something similar, maybe you were just curious and decided to give my story a read. Not every story has to moralize and motivate people, some stories I think are just meant to be read and understood.

If you have had any similar experiences feel free to drop a comment and tell me all about them.

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