Finding the Spark that Ignites a Passion for Volunteering
I have been volunteering and giving back to the community as long as I can remember. Early in my childhood I remember loathing it. It was always made out to be a chore by the Christian grade school and high school I attended. However, It wasn’t until my senior year in high school where I really started to appreciate and understand what I was doing and the difference I was making. Since then, in my college years, I find solace in giving back to the community.
A little back story: I went to a Catholic grade school then, naturally, went on to attend a Jesuit high school in Kansas City. We were required to have 15 hours of service a semester. That’s 115 hours throughout my high school career, and according to the Independent Sector the value of the average volunteer hour is about $23.07 that’s over $2,600 “donated” in my high school career.
Like I said I really don’t have a problem with volunteering at all, in fact I encourage it. I just didn’t like how I was forced to do it. I would rather have been taught to do it on my own than have it mandated.
Fast forward to senior year. Every senior at my high school was required to accomplish what we called a “senior service project” which is basically 5 weeks of working full time for a charity or nonprofit in Kansas City. I chose to work for a nonprofit called “The Children’s Place” which is basically a haven for battered and abused children across the Kansas City area.
Initially, The Children’s Place appealed to me because it was about five blocks away from my house. However, as I worked a couple weeks into my five-week tenure something happened; I started to care. No longer was this some school project that was instructed by my high school it became about caring for the cause
When we first got to the children’s place we were briefed on what our work there would look like. There we were told some of the stories of the situations some of the kids came from. It was horrifying. Maybe that was the catalyst that finally propelled me to see beyond myself. Maybe it was the shock and awe of seeing the consequences of abuse and neglect on children. Either way, it worked. If this in some way was the master plan of my high school: to send us out into the world and actually make a difference. I applaud them, because it really accomplished what it set out to do.
I recall a specific time we took a “field trip” to the ward parkway mall to get new shoes for all of the kids. While only $10 a pair these kids acted like it was Christmas. Experiences like these really put things in perspective for a private school kid who’s worries included what college he was going to go to, and not whether or not I will have shoes for the winter.
This experience at the Children’s place KC was the spark (I guess is how you would put it) to my love of volunteering. Because after that it wasn’t about writing an arbitrary number on a piece of paper and getting it signed off by your supervisor. It was more than that. It was actually making a difference.