by Erin Faulkner, Family Peer Supporter
July 18, 2023
This month’s theme is Service Work/Volunteering. As usual, I first jumped to Google for some research. Why do people choose to volunteer? Positive Force Consulting lists the following 12 reasons:
- There is a personal tie to the cause.
- Volunteering is a great way to build a resume.
- It’s a good way to bridge the gap between yourself and others who may perceive you as “different."
- Volunteering sets a good example for others.
- Meeting like-minded, motivated, positive people is super easy.
- Volunteering can offer unique and exciting opportunities.
- “Doing good” is important.
- Volunteering creates empowerment.
- Volunteering has never been easier.
- Volunteering can help you get or stay healthy.
- Volunteering gives greater perspective and self-awareness.
- Volunteering is good for you.
All of these reasons are personal, meaning the reason why comes from within. It often seems that those who have struggled the most are the first to volunteer, to give back to the community, to help those who have similar struggles.
I thought about writing my article for several weeks, worrying about how to write about something that I don’t have much experience in. Then I started feeling guilty and bad about myself. I know that is not the goal, for me or for anyone reading this. So, I started thinking more about ways that I might have “given back” that wasn’t in a volunteer status.
I graduated from college with a degree in Deaf Education and Elementary Education. I spent 3 years working in that field before realizing that I wasn’t in the right place. After 6 years in a variety of jobs, I found employment as a Family Support Specialist at my local Early Intervention agency where my daughter received services until she was 3 years old due to her genetic condition and risk for delays. After a few years, I moved into working with children with autism. Yes, I was being paid for this work, but I was also changing lives for the better – in a sense, I was giving back, serving people.
Teaching our youngsters about serving others should be something parents teach their children. I know that I work on that with the students I work with. My husband recently befriended some new neighbors out here in the country. They have helped us in so many ways without expecting anything in return, refusing, in fact. They are teaching their children the importance of being a “good neighbor” and helping others. They are truly role models, the parents and the children.
My role as a Family Peer Supporter started in that vein, as well. I received a phone call asking if this is something I’d be interested in doing. I already had a full-time job, but the idea of helping families who are going through struggles and who need support was something I wanted to do, not because I had to.
Service work and volunteerism are ways that we can give back with our time and skills. For some people, that may not be an option. Another way to give back to the community is through financial giving. Find a cause that speaks directly to you. Oftentimes, this is an agency that directly helped you, your child or a family member. It could also be a cause that you believe strongly in and want to support. If we look at the word donation, we can say that we are donating time or money.
Writing this article has inspired me, an empty nester, to look for ways that I can volunteer my time and skills in the community. If you are interested in volunteering, one place to look is United Way, though there are many other opportunities out there for you. Remember, that in addition to helping others, this should bring a positive change or addition to your life.