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Making a Difference by Helping Others
Several years ago, a young girl named Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke to the delegates of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The video of her speech went viral and she was dubbed “The Girl Who Silenced the World for 6 Minutes”. She was a girl on a mission which is to save the world from acts that will further worsen the environmental situation we were in 2 decades ago. I remember two things she said that stuck in my mind:
"I am only a child. Yet I know that if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this would be. In school you teach us not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share, not be greedy. Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do? You grownups say you love us, but I challenge you, please to make your actions reflect your words."
"If a child on the streets who has nothing is willing to share why are we who have everything still so greedy are?"
Since then she has continued with her mission. She is according to Wikipedia “an environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. She has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility.”
She is not alone. There are so many people out there with their own missions in life and practice these in so many ways. They do their part as volunteers, advocates, activists or as part of their philanthropic acts. Because we know that each one of us needs to take individual responsibility and make sustainable choice, so that we can become part of the positive tide of change. Now we ask, are these terms really different? Or they essentially the same as they are geared towards altruism?
A volunteer, according to Fair Labor Standards Act, is an individual who performs hours of service for a public agency [or organization] for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.
An activist is a person who makes an intentional action to bring about social or political change.
An advocate is one who speaks on behalf of another person or group.
A philanthropist is one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare.
There are millions of regular people, like you and me, who have their own advocacies and try to help in any way they can which can include volunteering their talents, skills, time and services, and even money, for altruistic reasons, to help “promote or improve human quality of life” or to help others dealing with a particular struggle. They do this to satisfy their own self-worth and self-fulfillment and it does not have to be known or recognized to everybody or be talked about in the newspapers. These are our silent heroes. It can be that you are a student, or a mother, a stay-at-home mom or in professional dress every day, a dad or a coach, it can be anybody willing to give their time to something they think is worth their time. There are volunteers who train for a specific task like medicine, firefighting and many more. There are professionals who work in their work uniforms, medical scrubs or lab coats, and use their knowledge and skills to help others better themselves. There are volunteers, who may not have specific training but are willing to devote their time and efforts to the soup kitchen or other community or school efforts. Usually, these are coordinated by volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Borders, Hands on Miami, Peace Corps, and many more.
Celebrities as advocates
On the other hand, there are people whose status in life makes it easy for them to bring the issues closer to other people.
A celebrity is a person who has a prominent profile in the media and is easily recognized. Celebrity status might be associated with certain professions and frequent appearances in the media. It can arise as a result of career planning but it can also arise by accident or as a result of infamy.
These are the people who are usually advocates or activists depending on their mission because they are in the position to make people listen and do something. Two popular advocates are Bono and Angelina Jolie. Bono’s philanthropy ranges from championing third world debt relief to raising awareness for the AIDS pandemic. Angelina Jolie uses her talent, fame and wealth to advocate for refugees. Since then people have taken noticed about celebrities and what causes they advocate, believe in and support.
“(Fame’s) a currency – you must use it well or lose it."
This is the advice that Bono gave Alicia Keys and because she had already achieved that certain level of fame she knows how important it is for her to make good use of it. Hence, she launched Keep A Child Alive, the charity the gives people the chance to chase those dreams. According to Alicia Keys she was so moved to meet people in Africa who have so little and yet are so generous, people who’ve been to hell and back but retain their dignity and are fighting for their dreams. Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, Ashley Judd, George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Leonardo di Caprio, are just some of the celebrities who are actively pursuing issues that are dear to them. Some lend their names while more and more are going out of their way to give time, money, connections and fame to make meaningful changes.
Volunteerism, advocacies, charities may mean different things in form and method but for me these are just different ways of helping our fellowmen. And what we want noted is that helping does not entail cash or money. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a Bill Gates to be able to help others. As professionals in medical scrubs or in corporate uniforms or as firefighters or policemen, there is always a way to volunteer our skills and knowledge that would benefit our community. In our own little ways we can find ways to help and volunteer our time and effort. If you are doing two or three jobs then it is understandable but if you have the free time, wouldn’t it feel much better if you can also devote a certain time for your community or whatever organization or sector you want to help?
Here are some ways we can get involve:
Making a difference is easy when you start with yourself. Then you go and make a difference by extending help to others. While some may think donating money should be done by the those with excess money, we should be able to teach our children that we can also do this in our own little ways. Doing without excessive things to be able to give is one way. If not, then give the stuffs that you no longer use. The youth today should be guided to find ways of volunteering their time, talents, skills and efforts. In this time when everything is becoming more political, even volunteerism is being done to build their resumes. Helping, in whatever form, is best given spontaneous and sincere, without thought of what you will get from it or that other people will find out about it. Any teenager can do community service in senior citizen centers, libraries, hospitals, animal centers, state parks and many more. Find out where you think you can work best or which you think needs your help most or in what line you are interested and volunteer.
Check out Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way, Live United, the city and state parks, and other institutions in your community that are looking for volunteers.
Get involve with Reading is Fundamental by being an advocate, as a volunteer, and by joining their campaigns. Literacy volunteers act as tutors who help illiterate children and adults learn the important skill of reading.
Get involved with Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer, partner or by donating.
United Nation has designated first Monday as annual World Habitat Day. This year it falls on Oct 3 and according to their website “Habitat for Humanity will engage in a series of special activities over six weeks to highlight the need for safe, decent and affordable shelter.” Read more on World Habitat Day 2011.
How others view it
I want to share something I have read from the blog ZenHabits:
Helping a fellow human being, while it can be inconvenient, has a few humble advantages:
- It makes you feel better about yourself;
- It connects you with another person, at least for a moment, if not for life;
- It improves the life of another, at least a little;
- It makes the world a better place, one little step at a time;
- And if that kindness is passed on, it can multiply, and multipy.
Want to find out other ways to help others? Then check out HelpOthers.org and get more ideas.