Putting together a volunteering organisation for my former employer was one of the highlights of my career and my Life. I found a passion I probably always knew I had in me but had never given a real chance. The folks in charge of the group gave me a chance at leading an event and from there on I just started getting more and more involved in leading it. In our events, I was confronted with stark realities of often forgotten parts of our World. Poverty. Elderly loneliness. Broken families. Youths at risk.
Today, like in the past and quite probably like in the foreseeable future, there are always lots of people who need help. Some need it structurally, because they are in a cycle of poverty, sickness, exploitation or other reasons. Others may be well off, but suddenly need help, like when a hurricane, earthquake or war befall on them. Disasters produce victims, whether their cause was natural or man-made.
Even on a smaller scale, people sometimes need help on their day-to-day. My grandmother is a super strong lady. She was the arm supporting my grandfather when he became fragile. She is the one who cooks lunch and dinner everyday for her “children” – my grownup uncles 😊 – and helps keep a united family around the table.
She’s a tough cookie. In the last couple years, she fell and broke her hip. You think it got her down? She used her mental strength and did her physical therapy and was up and about in no time. Then she fell and hit her forehead on a wall corner. I don’t know who looked worse, the wall or my grandma’s head, but hers really didn’t look good, I can tell you that… Again, she got it stitched up and in no time was back to normal. Thank God.
But she also could use a helping hand once in a while. Think not only about our elderly but folks with physical or mental challenges. They need a hand every so often to do things we take for granted. Crossing a busy street can instil fright. Climbing stairs, even with a handrail (when there is one!) can be the equivalent for us of climbing a mountain. Reaching above your shoulder to a top shelf? Try bench-pressing 50 kilos and tell us about it. We need to be able to take notice and take action. Some call it manners, I call it being a Hero.
People have chances put in front of them everyday to be Heroes. A teacher once told us, “It takes more discipline to sacrifice yourself everyday than to sacrifice in one big moment in your Life.”
I was awestruck when I found out entire villages in developing countries need to spend hours a day walking on average 11km to get water for their daily needs. It takes away precious time from their lives which could otherwise be dedicated to going to school, running a business, being with your family. Charity:Water was the organisation that showed us this reality and a group of about 15 of us ran 10km, a couple of us with a gallon of water on our backs, to raise awareness and money for the cause. What was going to be a pure awareness campaign turned into an over 10.000USD fundraiser to help build a water well with Charity: Water.
Coming from a commercial career, making money has always been relevant when I arrived at any business. Why would a volunteering organisation be any different? Making an impact often requires resources, so as much as who you are helping, it was important for me to find out how we could raise resources to do it. Not just money, but also toys, clothes, shoes, books and other things that can improve other people’s lives. Time.
Time was perhaps the most valuable thing you could raise. Getting people to give their Time on a weekend, or any day for that matter, to help out in an event, was a most precious gift. We one day created the message “Donate. Participate. Lead.” to let people know there’s more than one way to help.
I once went with a colleague volunteer to deliver free groceries to Auntie Betty. An elderly old lady alone in the world who collected empty beer cans around the street to make some money delivering them in recycling centres. She was thrilled about receiving the groceries, but she was even more thrilled to have two people to talk to her. My friend was a true gentleman and great at talking to Aunties… After a few minutes they looked like they’d known each other for years. The happiness in her eyes was unforgettable.