Friday 10 August 2012

The real cost of volunteering

I'm not glad or relieved, but grateful the matter was taken out of my hands.

I didn't get a volunteers role at the London Olympics.

I had pinned alot on going back to the UK to give my time freely as a volunteer, after all it's a once in a lifetime experience, OK, so I won a competition to go to Barcelona Olympics in 1992, so I guess I'd used my quota of good, but still.

When I registered as a volunteer I had no idea I would be moving to South Africa by the end of the year, but we put some major life changing plans on hold and some serious money aside for me to have this chance.

I've always volunteered, at primary schools, football clubs, cubs, sea cadets for fundraising, school fetes, donated items and with that I've also given not only my time freely but my money.

It's not free as a volunteer, costs involved range from phone calls, stamps, fuel to printing. You may choose to donate unwanted items or exchange birthday gifts as donations for fetes and raffles, but, as I've discovered recently it all mounts up.

When do you stop putting the odd extra item in your supermarket trolley for the Santa Shoebox, donating winter clothing and blankets to organisations/individuals and buying things you can't really afford to help make people's lives better?

There are 2 organisations I've been involved with since I arrived in South Africa. The Santa Shoebox appeal and KWO I give my time freely, I give the facilities I have available such as my printer, sewing machine etc, but then I give my printing ink, cost of materials etc and I've reached a stage where this week I've been working almost full time for them raising awareness, fundraising (still waiting to hear back) and purchasing items needed to enable me to do this. I can't work here in South Africa and I need to build by CV ready for our eventual return to the UK, but more than that I need to feel valued and to give something back. But I can't work full time for no pay and then spend money that I don't earn trying to do just that little bit more to help out. I'll burn out, I'll run out of resourses and I could end up feeling resentful.

So all in all it's not such a bad thing that I missed out on the Olympics, this country needs volunteers more than alot of others. So in hindsight the money I would've spent flying back to the UK to be a part of something huge, has been better spent here, actually changing the lives of others. And I know that come the celebration days with @santashoebox when we hand out the gifts we've collected and see the smiles on the children's facces, that this is where I belong, not with large cooperates, making money off the Olympics. But from now on the extra time I spent shopping for items I can't really afford will be spent tackling those organisations that can and ask them to share some of their profits back among those in genuine need.

If you can help in anyway please leave a comment on my blog or tweet me @chickenruby or at the very least click on the two organisations addresses to find out more about what they do and help to raise awareness @santashoebox @kwo_org

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