Why is it that on my day off when I *should* be filling in job applications or writing my final university assignment, I am writing up a draft press release and panicking that the charity our Guides voted on to fundraise for apparently closed down last month and they just never bothered to shut down their website?
I wrote last year about why I volunteer with Girlguiding. This year, I’m up to three groups of girls (two Senior Section groups and the Guide unit). Last term I finally got my Leadership Qualification badge – and at the same time stood with four new Senior Section members and two trainee leaders (who are becoming good friends of mine) making their promise.
I love these moments.
Why do I love them so much?
The truth is that volunteering is work. And these moments remind me why I stick it out through the tougher days when it isn’t all silly selfies, eating cake and dressing up!
There are months when you watch girls rip each other and themselves apart, and then you watch them get to a place where they are cheering and encouraging one another on. And doing something nice for each other.
It requires you to do a tour of supermarkets, pound shops, specialist shops, retail parks looking for the things you need for an event or project your unit wants to work on. It requires your friends and colleagues to collect magazines, toilet rolls, yoghurt pots, empty glass jars or lend you CDs, costumes and salwar suits
Every year you have the panic of searching every jacket and bag you’ve had for the previous few months for the active kids vouchers you have been handed by lovely friends, relatives, Guides and colleagues as you’ve been saying goodbye or in the middle of doing something else (or is that just me?!). And then you spend a few hours counting them, on the Active Kids helpline because their website isn’t working and vowing you’re never doing it again…
until of course the stuff arrives, the girls get excited, you see it put to good use…
…and by the time the vouchers appear in shops and the girls and your friends ask you ‘Are you collecting the vouchers again?‘ you find yourself saying ‘yes‘.
It is work to get up on a drizzly Saturday morning at the crack of dawn when you’ve not slept for two days due to being choked with a cold, or you’ve been off work and on antibiotics all week with a chest infection and do a 5k with coloured cornflour being chucked at you…
But it’s worth it to hear from parents how much their daughters loved it and hear the girls planning their ideas for how we can do it ‘even better’ next year.
And it’s draining when you care so much, and hear the girls say statements like ‘there’s nothing good about me‘ or ‘Why would anyone care what I have to say?‘ or ‘But I’m fat‘ or ‘I don’t know, I’m stupid‘ or ‘How could I inspire anyone?‘. You will ask advice from fellow leaders, come up with ideas, try to create opportunities and give them encouragement…anything you can think of that you hope will prove to them that they do have value, that people do care what they have to say, that they aren’t fat (and that body size shouldn’t stop them giving things a go anyway), that they aren’t dumb and that they can inspire other people just by being themselves.
because when you see one of the girls overcome something…the exhaustion and frustration you’ve felt knowing that they could do it but them not seeing it doesn’t matter anymore.
The bottom line is this…
Volunteering is hard work.
But it’s mostly a lot of fun.
And it is definitely worth it.