To volunteer or not to volunteer

Bayanihan or volunteering

I saw this at the restaurant where Victory Liner makes a stop. It depicts the act of bayanihan, a Tagalog term for Filipinos helping one another especially during crises.

I have decided to be a volunteer for most of this year. I’ve been growing toward this aspect of service a year now. I was supposed to be deployed internationally last year but I retracted because of personal safety concerns. Last year as we know had been hell in international security and I wasn’t prepared to be in unstable areas without full compensation. Ha ha! But, I guess, when it’s for you it’s for you. It’s going to come at you no matter how you dodge it.

The question posed to me by the organization was, what made you decide to volunteer? Well, looking back, my story has been of gradual awareness and readiness.

In my 20s, colleagues, after completing their contracts (in development work) went overseas for volunteer work. They were young and overseas was the next step. They were deployed in countries like Tibet, Kenya, Congo. I was urged to join them, but volunteering never entered my mind. In the communities, I had been both fascinated and filled with respect for the local people especially women already multiple-burdened who volunteered for our organization and helped facilitate it’s work. But volunteering didn’t mean anything to me personally. I couldn’t see myself as selfless as the locals were. ‘Volunteer’ didn’t appeal to me.

I have not, until now, volunteered formally. I have only been helping people in my immediate surroundings such as helping elderly folks in my barangay with their grocery bags or colleagues in need with their work. As a freelance consultant for some time now, I voluntarily don’t ask for my full fees from organizations I knew didn’t have much financially or when it involves a cause I personally believe in. Beyond the private sphere, I’ve not much to show for (public) volunteerism. As I got older, however, growing in experience, knowledge, skills, emotional maturity, and confidence, I felt myself becoming more and more psychologically ready to give of myself in a more public way. The key factor for me here is ‘psychologically ready’.

“Wow,” the officer listening to my story said, “that’s a word.” It is. That’s how I feel about volunteering now. In a sense it’s like my personal journey toward becoming more generous. I guess it’s similar to being in love or getting married. When one is ready, and you’ll know the time, one is more able to give of oneself fully and completely and to appreciate the other as fully and completely. And, like love or marriage, I’m venturing in with an open mind.

In my next post, I’ll write about my initial realizations from my first steps toward volunteering.

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