- December 5, 2015
- Posted by: Audrey del Rosario
- Category: Bucket List
Happy International Volunteer Day! In the spirit of this designated day by the United Nations, a reflection on volunteering on Everyday Ambassador and some resources to help you start integrating volunteering in your own life.
If you would have asked me a few years ago what came to mind when you said the words “international volunteering”, I instantly thought of the brightly colored classrooms in a wildly foreign environment, Peace Corps, and a backpacking, TOMS shoes-wearing do-gooder. That’s not to place a negative light on any of these things per se, but I simply didn’t know much else.
Growing up with parents who placed a value on giving back to the people and things that propel you forward, I had some sense of what it means to serve, but I made I never made it an integral part of my identity. Volunteering was something I did, but I didn’t place much more value on it. As a middle school and high school student who had a then-budding interest in the natural sciences, I’d logged hundreds of hours at an outpatient clinic of a county hospital where my dad worked – working with medical record keepers and observing how he had interacted with patients of different levels of income, of English fluency, of immigration statuses, and of family compositions. Eye-opening? Yes. Life-changing? No. I was still Audrey, who would sometimes volunteer on the weekends and sometimes not, but at the core of my identity was more a daughter, a student, and a friend.
Flash forward to my twenties and away from the awkward, gangly years of bad haircuts and from crushes who probably never knew my name, I’m a different person – not just physically but in a way that long-term, international volunteering has changed my life. To a large extent, Everyday Ambassador is and has been a global, volunteer-run initiative. The countless hours I’ve spent on the back-end of this website; on this column; on planes, trains, and buses to New York to meet my co-founder; on some big news coming 2016 (stay tuned!) have not been for monetary gain.
In the kind of world where professional and personal connections (who, as opposed to what, you know) serve as currency and in a place where it’s easy to be branded for and hired for your skills, volunteering at Everyday Ambassador has kept me human.
Out of school and in between jobs, I started on the then-blog Everyday Ambassador as an otherwise unemployed, sweatpants-wearing twenty-something-year-old restless to find something to fill my time and to make a difference. Today, being at a currently volunteer-run organization has allowed me to practice skills I may not be otherwise able to in my current office job, and it’s so much more than a blog just like I feel so much more than who I was when I first started.
I’ve been humbled and have truly been inspired by the fact that our team is entirely run by AMAZING female volunteers on two continents who work tirelessly during weekdays, nights, and weekends to ensure that posts go up in time, are promoted on social media, that event materials are designed beautifully, and that our message is clear. It’s practiced patience and learned sacrifice over and over again to give up this much time to do something I’ve truly believed in, and it’s given me the space to react to the news in a way that feels constructive through this column. (To those who’ve been reading my posts for two years, you be the judge.)
In thinking about all these things, I think about the opportunities I’ve lost, yes, to be a more present friend, girlfriend, student, coworker, and peer and the downsides of investing so much of my time in others that I should have been be investing in myself. On the other side though, I think about the of deep, personal fulfillment I’ve found and even deeper relationships I’ve been able to make through Everyday Ambassador when money wasn’t the reason behind our interactions or wasn’t in the picture altogether. That’s not say that money is at the root of our problems, but sometimes we present our identity as the very thing that pays our bills but not necessarily what we care about. It’s a personal and professional goal to one day find a balance of both not just for myself but for everyone on the team as well as Everyday Ambassador grows. For the time being though, “volunteer” is a part of my identity, as it’s given me a space to practice and present my passions first.
If you’re someone who’s looking for something more meaningful in your life beyond your current schoolwork, job, or community, consider giving back. If you’re someone who doesn’t regularly do so, read through these resources and practice with some small steps to make a difference everyday!
- Read this “Bucket List” piece for more on the value of volunteering, especially in response to current events.
- Watch this TED talk on the first step in volunteering: “shut up and listen”.
- Learn how to be a responsible volunteer.
- Write this quote somewhere you can see everyday: “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
- Read our Wednesday Wisdom series for volunteer reflections and stories from the field.
- Check out our partner network for a list of gold-standard social impact organizations and initiatives where you can volunteer.
- Read this beautiful piece on a volunteer experience from one of our interns, Bailey Baumbick.
“Bucket List” is a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador Brand Strategist Audrey del Rosario. Every Saturday, we will feature events, conferences, and happenings that spark conversation and ignite your inner activist. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #bucketlist or #EAinspired on our other platforms, and check back regularly for updates.
Image Credit: Ava Ranger Photography