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Amplify Blog - Volunteering: Thoughts from the “Me” Generation

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Amplify Blog - Volunteering: Thoughts from the “Me” Generation

Amplify Blog

by QFCC Youth Advocate Bri


I’ll always defend volunteering. It was through volunteering, initially just with Girl Guides, that I began to develop a greater confidence in myself. I’ve worked many hours, developed high level communication and management skills, created content, gained experience, broadened my horizons and my networks. I’ve given up my hours, my money, and even my wellbeing at times. I’ve learnt how to write – write instructions, write short stories, write emails, write news articles, write Facebook posts. I’ve learnt to speak calmly, confidently, cooperatively. I’ve learnt how to soak up every lasting minute with the sponge that is ‘service’.

By my second year of university, I had fully realised the power of ‘giving back’. I signed up to be a mentor to new students at the university, direct basketball fans to their seats for our local games, manage social media for one of the four dance clubs I spent upwards of 10 hours at each week in the evenings after my lectures and for half of every Saturday.

In the flurry that was my weekly devotion to the town I grew up in was the barrage of criticism I received. Frustrations from others at Guides or dancing or university, pressure from my mum to add paid employment to the agenda, self-loathing for being lazy. I was conditioned to believe I was the embodiment of Sloth itself, because by the age of 20 I didn’t have a job.

To set the record straight: 1. The issue of desirable youth employment opportunities in regional areas needs its own book, not an article, and 2. I wasn’t lazy. I was privileged. And I get it, why that would annoy someone who is not privileged. But I think that reflects the current state of volunteering on a wider scale. Recently, I was asked “Why aren’t people volunteering as leaders?” But we should really ask, why aren’t people volunteering as much at all?

I was disappointed to receive a response tracing the issue back to a “me” generation that is only interested in what’s in it for them, people who don’t see the benefit of giving up their time (and money, I’ll add!). But firstly… why? Why should I be degraded and deemed selfish for not giving up my own time or the money I’ve earned? Nobody else is entitled to my labour, especially if they’re not paying me for it, and ESPECIALLY if they’re asking that I pay them! Because I still pay $220 a year (plus expenses!) to give up my personal time volunteering for Guides. So, I can’t really fault someone if that’s a fee they’re not able to foot.

And secondly, it is high time we respect and acknowledge the fact that volunteering is no longer an act of simple community service. It is not always an accessible opportunity – people slave at work for years, paying off HECS-debts and saving for that far-off horizon of home ownership, trying to afford treatment and therapy and healthy living practices day-to-day. Having enough for yourself is a hardly achievable now. And so, volunteering is not about good people giving back – it has become an act of privilege. We are in a privileged position to be financially secure enough to invest in the community, to be rich enough with time to share our time in the community, to be healthy and energetic enough to be active in the community. And the price of volunteering can be taxing in any one way, but is generally taxing in many at once.

Appreciate the opportunities you have to give back to the world in the way that best suits you. Don’t devote your life to free labour or harbour any guilt over prioritising yourself in the spending of your personal resources. If you’re among the lucky group who have excess time or money or blood to give, nice! But don’t bleed yourself dry and expect others to do the same.