By Glemir Sordilla
HAPI Scholar | HAPI Bacolod Member
vol·un·teer | \ ˌvä-lən-ˈtir \
: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service
We have all probably encountered a “volunteer” at least once in our lives; perhaps you have even been one yourself! Currently practiced by thousands of people throughout the world, volunteerism has a truly rich history. According to a Guardian article in 2015, you could trace its history back to medieval times in Great Britain when 500 voluntary hospitals were established for the sick and poor. A few dozen generations later, the spirit of volunteerism continues to flourish.
When talking to volunteers, one can’t help but notice their heart-warming stories and how their faces would light up when you ask them about their personal experiences. The earliest memory I have of me volunteering is in our community here in Negros Occidental, cleaning out clogged canals with the adults. That experience ignited something in me; after that, it was a continuous stream of various voluntary works that I kept participating in. (It eventually led me, of course, to HAPI!)
These social circles give volunteers a sense of belonging and even lifelong friendships.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart“, goes a quote by Elizabeth Andrew that Ms. M, HAPI Founder, also shared with us before. It goes to show that volunteers lead commendable and extraordinary lives that are driven by their passionate hearts. They are empathic people who are kind enough to somehow feel responsible for making the world a better and kinder place.
A recent study by Debra Gray explored the role of “shared social identity” in the experiences and benefits of volunteering; in it, Gray found that shared support between volunteers is necessary to deal with the challenges of the volunteering role. This much is true because, while there are people who volunteer individually, most of the time volunteering is done with a group of people or an organization. These social circles give volunteers a sense of belonging and even lifelong friendships.
Eldemar Sabete, HAPI Membership Officer and a volunteer of almost four years, told me that the lesson volunteerism has taught him is to “love your work”. This will be beneficial to you and to the community you are trying to reach out to because it will help you avoid burnout. He also added that fighting alone is not an option and that engaging with the community is where you can find the right people to work with.
They say experiences are something that cannot be bought; if you are a volunteer, you will resonate with this statement. The fulfillment, joy, and even the horrors of reality that I and others like me have witnessed while volunteering made us more connected to our fellow humans and the world as a whole.