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Thursday, November 25, 2010

A letter from two young volunteers to inspire Volunteer Management !

Today I was moved. In a way I haven’t been moved for awhile. I manage a volunteer program at a wonderful hospital in Australia.

I have a passion for my occupation for many reasons. Quite simply I love it ! yes – a simple statement but so simple in its truth. I know most of you feel the same. When you are asked what you love most about your job how do you respond?

For me it always comes back to the people. The people I work with. Whether that be the wonderful staff who coordinate daily activity or the volunteers who truly inspire me.

But let’s be honest. One can become a little complacent at times. Let’s be real here. The job can be challenging at times. Managing and coordinating volunteers encompasses much. As a leader you need to be switched on 100% of the time. A job as important and vital as yours demands much. You must work hard to ensure your program runs smoothly. Sometimes we get so busy and lost in that busyness that we forget the “why”. Why am I doing this in the first place?

Where I work there were two 17 year old volunteers who volunteered at the hospital for a year. They have both just retired from volunteering as their study now will involve an absolute full time commitment. They both hope to return to volunteering in the future.

They made a large thank you card together. In it was a letter. It was written by both volunteers.This is no ordinary letter. It is a heartfelt letter from two young ladies on how volunteering has changed their lives forever. I was going to save publishing this until International Volunteers day on December 5th. But then I thought that some of you might want to use this inspiring letter for your own recognition events.

It is a letter from 2 volunteers named Charini and Lisa. I have sought their permission to reproduce.

It is a letter that brought a tear to my eye. It is a letter that confirmed why I love the job that I do. It is a letter that I believe every young person who is considering volunteering should read.

Too often our youth get a bad rap. This is a letter to shine the positive light on youth that so many deserve.

I hope you get out of it as much as I did. Feel free to share.

Volunteerism is in good hands if this is the general view of our future generation. With thanks to Charini and Lisa – here is their letter slightly abridged to protect identify:


Dearest DJ, Wendy and Volunteers,

Exactly a year ago, we had just completed the most stressful year of our lives and had finally graduated from school. Although we were elated at the prospect of never having to fold down our socks again, we were at a major crossroad with numerous life-changing decisions to make. At this stage, we are still unable to say if we chose the right paths with many of those decisions. However, we are able to say that one of the earliest choices we made was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best. That decision was, of course, to volunteer at your hospital.

We breezed through our interview and from that moment we both knew that it was here that we’d learn precious lessons about life whilst making as much mischief we could without getting into too much trouble…..

At first we found volunteering very challenging, especially conversing with patients. I (Charini) remember on my second day, I was partnered with Andrew+ and we were talking to an elderly gentleman. The conversation was quite light and humorous, when, out of the blue, the patient said “I lost my leg”. This was the first time a patient had discussed such a personal issue in front of me and my mind went completely blank. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation because I was so shocked. However, I must have been listening to Andrew subconsciously, because only a few months later, I met a lady who confided in me that she was going to die. To this day, that is one of the most dreadful sentences I’ve heard. This time, I was a little more prepared but at the back of my mind, I kept asking myself,” What can you do that’s of any use to this lady? You have no medical training. You’re only 17, you don’t know anything about death. How can YOU help?” By the time I left her room, half an hour later, I had my answer. I could make her smile. And that, I realised, is the power of a volunteer. That is the gift we give.

Another time, I (Lisa) met a gentleman in his 90’s. We had been talking for quite some time when I realised his feet had not stopped moving throughout our entire conversation. When I asked him about it, he explained that he loved to dance and took his wife out every Friday night to do just that. Dance. The simplicity of his story was awe-inspiring. It was a story of courage, love of life and pursuing dreams. It made me think, “If this gentleman can go dancing every week despite the various health issues facing him at his age… What can I do? What will I achieve?” One day, I will be able to answer these questions and on that day, I will remember the man who taught me that not even the sky is the limit.

This year has been a tremendous year and a phenomenal experience for us both. It goes without saying that it would not have been such an amazing year without each and every one of the volunteers whom we have met and even those we have yet to encounter. For the incredible memories you’ve given us, thank you. Thank you for welcoming us into the volunteering circle with such warmth and acceptance. Thank you for your friendship; your bright shining faces and vibrant, loving personalities have made us look forward to coming in every week. It’s so heartening to know that there is a group of people with a wealth of life experience in the community who are willing to give their time to help others.

A special thanks must go to both DJ and Wendy for guiding us, supporting us and letting us learn from our mistakes. Both your jovial and compassionate personalities are so illuminating it is undeniably evident even through your phone greetings. Thank you for blessing us with the opportunity; words cannot express just how grateful we are.

And so we leave you with just one more story…..
One day, we met a patient called Graham+. In a word, he was amazing. We must have sat with him for at least an hour and a half before being called away. He gave us new perspectives on life, he gave us stories of childhood and he promised to make us lunch if we ever went to his home town. In turn, we gave him laughter, our hopes and dreams for our future and of course more, more laughter. We never saw Graham again but he has always stayed with us. And we’ve truly come to believe that for every volunteer, there is a “Graham”. So watch out for him. He’s out there. “


These two young people had the courage to write this letter. I hope the fact that countless people in your own programs doing amazing things inspires you ! Never forget how awe inspiring and life changing your occupation can be !

+names have been changed

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this DJ. I relate a number of similar stories in my training sessions and the thing that always gets me more than anything else is that it is not just the VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE that makes a difference to volunteers (and sticks with volunteers), it is also US AS VOLUNTEER MANAGERS.

    Whether we know it we make a huge impact on our volunteers each and everyday

    Well done!

    Andy Fryar - OzVPM

    ReplyDelete

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