I started doing volunteer work in my early twenties. My ex-husband joined the Marine-Corps as soon as we got out of high school. Not long after our second child was born, they transferred him to Georgia so we packed up and moved from California. It wasn’t easy finding a job with two toddlers so I stayed home with the kids. After about six months I craved adult conversation. When I saw an ad about volunteering for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society who would cover babysitting, I jumped on it. I went once a week to their office and would have done three days a week if they had let me. Volunteering got me out of the house, it gave me new friends, kept me social and I felt good about the work I did there.
After a year and a half in Georgia, I moved back to California and I kept up the volunteering. I went to my kids classrooms to help the teachers once a week and I joined the PTA. As the kids grew older, I stopped. It wasn’t cool having mom in the classroom anymore. I took a break from volunteering unsure of what to do until I moved to Salt Lake.
Not long after moving here, I re-joined the SWC again and located the local Hearing Loss Association (HLA) chapter. Within six months, I found myself their president. About a year later, I became involved with setting up the first Walk4Hearing here as well. The SWC Connect list asked if I’d like to become a list representative and I said yes. Since the SWC is holding their convention where I live, I am helping with that too this year. Then I agreed to take a position on the Utah advisory council representing the hard of hearing. I’m a part-time volunteer and all of it is for hard of hearing causes.
I believe in reaching out to others with hearing loss because I remember how alone I felt twenty years ago when mine first started. I had no support and no one to talk to about it all the first five years of wearing hearing aids. Thank goodness for the internet and finding the SWC in the late nineties or I might still be faking it with no clue to the technology available and very little healthy coping strategies. It only feels right that I give back to the SWC for turning my hard of hearing life around.
Today, I am encouraging you to volunteer. Together, we can accomplish a lot. Individually, we struggle. At the local level, I see only a few of us volunteering over and over again. Because of that, I’ve seen some hit burn out and dropping out completely, leaving fewer of us. Now and then someone new comes in and steps up to the plate. It’s heart lifting. “Yes! We can accomplish a little more now,” the rest of us think.
It doesn’t take much to volunteer. Yesterday I sent out a request on an email list (not SWC) for an open position on a board which meets for one hour, once a month. That’s it. It’s an easy board to be on and I learn about what’s going on in our community d/Deaf and hard of hearing wise. No one responded.
On another committee, maybe four of us show up consistently and it’s one that takes ten people to run smoothly. If we had a someone for each chair position, we could away with three hours, at the most, a month. Two of those hours are for the meeting once a month and most of the time, the third hour is not needed. The task is looking really rather large to the four of us right now… almost overwhelming. It’s a good cause so we don’t want to give it up but if things don’t improve this year, we may have to. It’s sad to give up an event that draws a couple hundred or more from the hearing loss community together for one big, fun filled day a year.
Every committee I’m on could use more a little more help. The more volunteers we have, the easier the job is for everyone. One or two hours a month is drop in the bucket. It could be as little as going to your local HLA chapter meeting and supporting their efforts by showing up. See if they need any help with a small task. Ask SWC what you might be able to do for them. Or maybe there’s a desire to volunteer else where in your life. Go for it.
The benefits of volunteering are; it keeps us active, social and it’s an accomplishment that feels good. It also helps to fill in resume gaps. Keeping our brains active help us live a longer fuller life. It’s easy for those of us who are hard of hearing to withdraw, stay home and keep things simple. Resist that once or twice a month. Start slow and easy to keep from getting overwhelmed. Most volunteers I meet have big hearts and loads of patience. I meet some awesome people while volunteering. I would like to meet more.