On volunteering close to home – part II

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Last week I told you about this volunteering project I am doing close to the place I live.

If you missed it, you can find it here.

I was left with too many thoughts on volunteering, and especially on the results it can have in such a case.

Twenty years ago, a group just as my own, started doing more or less the same things we are doing, in the same neighborhood we are doing it in.

This past, january 12th, the old group came down to the neighborhood to visit the, once kids, now adults, they volunteered for. And also, to see what we were up too.

This turned out to be extremely interesting. We were able to see the results that five years of volunteering had on those who lived it.

Volunteering can often be a selfish act. Not really intended that way, but with results being more beneficial for those who volunteer then for those who you volunteer for. Very rarely can you see if in fact you are helping or not. Usually only twenty years, or fifty years later can you see the product of what you planted. And even then, you don’t really get the other hypothesis, – what would those results be if you had not been there.

At first, I have to say, I felt a little sad. These, now grown ups, were all still living there. They were not in any way, having a better life (when it comes to their living conditions at least). And this was very immediate to notice – especially because we realised that most of the grown ups, are the kids we work with parents’.

And so, how is this doing any good?

How is this any different from entertaining a bunch of kids?

After a, very close, second look, I realised a couple of things.

They were very emotional.

They thought of that time in their life, in their childhood as one of the best. And they remember those few weekend as being the highlight of their month.

The ones who were there were extremely emotive, and as they spread the word out, a lot left their work (being a saturday, and considering ou main cultural target – a lot were at the flea market – which is the main income source) to come and see those who meant so much to them once. Those who had such a deep influence on them.

Most of the kids in the neighbourhood are gypsies. This is a very different culture. And it has a lot of very strict traditions.

In our group we have a two-year old who already is engaged. We also know of a girl, who after catching a lift was forced into marring the driver, – I personally know one of the attendees at the wedding.

There is all sort of stereotype that is true when you think of gypsies, but that means they don’t get a lot of chances – because of tradition, because of economical situations, because of the place they live in, because of their culture.

After watching the sentimental women, showing off their kids, the very happy men, telling their kids how cool these people were, and the kids – so happy, so truly, profoundly happy, to know that their parents had once done this, that their parents did this, and especially, to be playing with their parents there, watching, made it all worth it for me.

I find that, even if it is in fact tiny, even if it is not going to drastically change this kids lives, this type of work might just open their horizons to something different they don’t get at home. And then, maybe, just maybe, they will be better adults, make better decisions.

Maybe, this will shift, just a tiny little bit, the way their kids are raised.  Maybe they will be more loving, more caring, more thoughtful, even if just a bit. Maybe this can go on and on until it is not necessary anymore. Imagine this in 5 generations. And in 10 generations. Always changing just a little bit.

My work, is insignificant there. I could not do it alone. And I could easily be replaced.

But the group’s work?

The project’s work?

It is fundamental, it is very relevant, and it is going to hopefully change their lives.

That it is why I am so deeply grateful to be a part of all of this.

What about you? Do you have any projects close to home you could take part of? Do you have anyone who might need your help?

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3 responses to “On volunteering close to home – part II

  1. Well… after reading your post, you can say I volunteered myself for two months by helping a good friend with her new business. I may say I’m a volunteer as every new start needs time. She cannot afford to pay me as I cannot dare to ask it. That’s what friends do. We had good fun together, now is time to move on.

  2. Pingback: Paraty – Brasil | (pre) concept·

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