Learning with Volunteering

In the past years of my time I have been used to work for the community. Volunteering has been with me since my third year of university and it was the time where my life changed from procrastinating to actually doing something of good.

In volunteering there is always a goal. Environment, social, cultural, technological and so on. The number of interests is enormous which involves hundred of different tasks to be done. Let’s head into it:

Photo by ray sangga kusuma on Unsplash

I will start with a bold statement.

Most of the volunteering tasks you will perform are out of your comfort zone. Which is good.

You will never be fully prepared for what can happen during the time you spend volunteering. There will be setbacks, unexpected reactions by others (within or outside the organisation) and occasionally a seemingly impossible goal.

Sometimes you will perform tasks that you never done in your whole life. This conditions are perfect to reach your maximum learning capacity. It is only up to you to do it. In other occasions you already know the skill and you have teach others how to do it or trade knowledge. Someone said that teaching others is where you learn the most.

This will greatly expand your comfort zone to the growth zone and what those skills that you learned stay with you forever.

The learning bubble

Your attitude and skillset represents a big part of your career journey. The major difference is the skillset developed in a regular job to a volunteer one. Even thought there can be some common ground one focuses on a single career perspective and other on a social and community perspective.

The social matter is one of the reasons I focus when explaining the pros of volunteering. It makes us more human. We level ways to communicate with others that don’t come from the same background, we discover empathy from unfavored individuals conversations and valorisation on the accomplishments made over time.

Last but not least the setbacks. There will be enormous situations that will make you want to quit or postpone. There is no individual rewards from doing it. Why stay?

But then there is the others around you that push you to keep up and don’t quit. And then there is the admiration on there for doing that. One example is that I never enjoyed staying up late nights to finish paperwork in order to get funds. Those funds helped us organise events and keep moving forward.

But it was those people that taught me the importance of some processes in life.

Difficult conditions are the ones that lets us learn the most. Of course when the storm is over there is always the possibility to laugh about all the bad it happened.

Check the following link to have a look. BurnFile ( CESIUM ). It represents all the problems we encountered during a seven days event we were organising. On the time it wasn’t funny at all but as more events keep happening even thought there were failures there was always learn lessons being.

Volunteering at JOIN a collaboration between the department of Informatics and students from two different courses

You finish your studies. How do you shine over the others?

When starting a new career having this small bonuses can make you stand out over similar candidates. In some cases over more experienced ones. Being proactive and involved in the society is becoming more effective on a career perspective. It is now being looked upon by recruiters to make sure the candidates are most suited.

It is a small edge over others but not all has a look at this.

Professional jobs always have some sort of confidentiality that restricts what can be said during on an interview. Volunteering experiences are the exact opposite and should be explored.

It creates a fluid conversation within the interviews. It suddenly becomes highly personal. Sharing stories becomes exciting in the HR eyes no matter the outcome. You just managed to show the best of you to others.

There isn’t a lot of people that look at volunteering as a way of life. Actually I met people that look at it as a waste. That you should be working instead. Most of it comes from humans that aren’t involved with the volunteer actions.

For those that are participating with you it seems that there is no time to rest. There is always something to be completed. When you finish one thing another shows up.

So where is the recognition? Most of the times no one will care about. Kinda like making a statement on Facebook.

But when it happens? It feels good. People that were impacted by what you did will approach you and be like:

Thank you for this. For being here.

And they will talk about their stories. You will realize that you became part of their lives. And that will make you feel good because you know it is true.

Tests with the camera while we were preparing the materials for an event.

Doing good for others feels that you actually contribute. You become purpose driven in this situations.

I was once in a folk festival helping on its organisation. We ran into some problems that made us fear the worse. We keep moving on as the festival ran.

One guy approached me and told me that he made 2,523 kilometers ( 1,568 miles ) to go reach the festival based on previous years feedback. Then he proceed to say that it was one of the best festival he ever was and then thanked me for making it happen.

It lifted my spirit. I spend 5 days in a rush to make sure everything was good enough but that moment I stopped to appreciate those words and to realize that it actually went well. Not perfect but well enough for the listeners to appreciate.

The worse part is when you go. You go back to the uncertainty. Will you next action have as much impact as this one? Will it make you feel better?

One thing is for sure. The memories will stay.

Like in a regular job you spend quite some time with peers to do the volunteering. Since in volunteering there is usually a common interest on everyone is tends to be a great connection between everyone.
The obstacles don’t feel so painful to overcome and the successes are shared together.

A big chunk of my great friends were met while I was volunteering and I know that is a lifetime friendship. I honestly think that if it wasn’t for them I would be never be able to finish the informatics course.

Essentiality they helped with m realize my career project.

Miguel taught me a lot on hard work during my days on university. Old days organising events on CESIUM.

I couldn’t finish without referencing that volunteering is a big opportunity to travel to a new country. There is plenty of countries that will let you go abroad to experience internacional volunteering. Helping on a new country, meeting new cultures and people. A unique moment to grow.

There are several websites where you can find this opportunities:

Take a look on Synergia São Tomé here.

See you soon,

Paulo — Former Volunteer in CESIUM and Arredas Folk Fest.

Now volunteering in Associação Juvenil Synergia.

Software Programmer, Youth Facilitator, Idea Maker

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