For most of the summer I received emails from the organization I was a volunteer of. Most of them were pretty standard, even the “we still need 3 volunteers, spread the word” email. I was sent the email with orientation information, since all former volunteers are invited, and asked one more thing.
“Do you have a sentiment to share with the new volunteers?”
The trouble is it’s hard to put on paper, especially for people just leaving orientation. Your brain is swimming with anything and everything. I knew the chances of something I said sticking are slim. Now had they asked for notes for a volunteer’s first few days/weeks at placement, that’s another story.
Dear newly missioned volunteers,
You’ve probably been at your placements just a few days, even so here are Thirteen Things New Volunteers Should Know/Remember
- Orientation was like boot camp, but you’re not done, there’s still more to learn. Each. And. Every. Single. Day.
- You aren’t there as a fill in or a substitute. You are there because they wanted you.
- There’s a reason for every workshop you sit though, take it from someone whose housemates are now married (indeed to each other).
- You’ll have at least one moment during the year that is screaming at you to turn around and go home. Don’t.
- Find a mentor, at your placement, in your larger faith community, in your neighborhood, it doesn’t matter, just find one.
- No matter how you decided to handle the holidays you’ll end up homesick, and probably crying at some point.
- Focus on community; the one in your house was given to you but build one outside of the house as well. Both will make you a better person, and help the other community thrive. You’re in individual who is part of a community, don’t forget.
- Be open to things you never considered. Say yes when you always thought you’d say no, but know that it’s O.K. to say “No thanks.”
- Very little will turn out “like you thought it would.” That’s a big part of the beauty of what you’re doing.
- You will love. You will hate. You will fight. You will be confused. Sometimes all at the same time, and more than likely never over what you thought you would, dishes in the sink, what’s for dinner, who makes dinner, sharing of items, and toilet paper.
- At least one or you will end up in the emergency room at least once. Consider it a right of passage.
- Contrary to what you may be thinking (or what other people are telling you), you aren’t there to change the world. You are however going to make the world a better place and that’s just as important.
- Just when you think can handle your position it’ll be time to leave. It’s O.K.
Bonus 14. For communities where men are a minority, which will be most of them, be respectful of their boundaries, especially when it comes to the purchasing of ladies only items. If they don’t want to buy them on their run to the store DO NOT push the issue.
*A similar version of this post was written on August 16, 2012