THINGS YOU SHOULD consider BEFORE Doing Chesed or Volunteering
(Ideas borrowed from Alison Jones and modified for Yair Leolam Leaders)
At some point, many of us declare that we want to do more Chesed and volunteer more. We might start volunteering somewhat accidentally when a friend invites us to participate in a local Chesed experience, such as coat drive or a carnival for needy kids. In any case, these initial moments of giving back might spark an interest in doing more.
But once you decide you want to do more, then what? Many young people think that they can’t make a difference! Doing Chesed makes a very big difference…you can change the world one person at a time.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your Chesed/volunteer opportunity allows you to give back, make a difference, and feel good:
This might seem counterintuitive; isn’t doing Chesed all about giving? Obviously giving is at the core of volunteering, but many of us also want to get something out of our experiences when doing chessed. Perhaps you want to learn more about a cause and connect with new people. Or maybe you want get some hands-on experience in a new field like geriatrics, pediatrics, or community organization. Or perhaps you’re interested in a major issue in your community, and you’re eager to roll up your sleeves.
These different motivations will push you toward different kinds of opportunities and organizations. Know what you want to gain from your Chesed opportunity and it will become more interesting and meaningful for you!
A big mistake that I hear volunteers make is saying that they “just want to get involved and do Chesed.” Well, in what way? Are you really good at writing and want to help an organization take its communications to new heights? Do you love hitting the streets and canvassing for a good cause? Do you feel comfortable putting on make up and making kids laugh at the local hospital pretending to be a clown? Or perhaps you prefer helping out behind the scenes with things like mailings—tapping into your love for organizing and straightforward tasks.
Sometimes we feel so compelled by a cause or issue that we just want to throw ourselves in yet wonder why a few days or weeks down the road we feel a bit out of place. Knowing what you want to give, like knowing what you want to get, will allow you to determine whether or not the opportunity will be a great fit.
This is a simple one: Be honest with yourself about how much time you can commit.
We often have an initial rush of excitement about doing Chesed that might cause us to over-commit. If you’ve never really volunteered before, going all in with a weekly assignment that lasts for three months might be too much. This is especially the case with volunteer opportunities that are more direct service like mentoring, big brother/sister program, serving food to the needy on a daily basis, and so on. There is often prep work that needs to be done, travel, and other elements that affect the total amount of time you’ll spend volunteering.
In many cases, you can always start small and ask to get more involved later. This is better than starting off with a large commitment and backing down later on, leaving the organization scrambling.
Sometimes the best way to find an opportunity is to simply poke around and see what kinds of opportunities are available. Ask teachers, friends, and relatives about chessed opportunities in your community. An educated consumer is a successful consumer – know what’s out there! Read the local paper, look for posts in your shul or youth movement, and/or speak to your teacher about the types of volunteer opportunities that exist in your area.
Ask people about their experiences volunteering. Why do they volunteer? Where? How often? What makes it worthwhile for them? Can you tag along with them or see what they are working on? Tapping into your network will you give the knowledge you need to find a volunteer opportunity you’ll love.