I have volunteered with YVC Philly since 2015 and in that time, I have learned quite a number of things. I have grown as a person and a leader. I have grown more comfortable with myself and have gained a bit of confidence in public situations. Most importantly, I have learned about the issues within the communities of the Philadelphia area and different ways to address them through direct and indirect volunteering.
When people think of community service or volunteering, their thoughts typically gear more towards more typical events such as working in soup kitchens, cleaning up parks, or sorting foods that will be packaged. I like to think of these activities as forms of direct volunteering. It is a way to become directly involved, to be in the middle of the action, so to speak. There is a lot that can be learned just from being there and actually speaking to the people you’re serving.
One of my favorite annual projects is with the Jewish Relief Agency. We wake up at early hours and then spend a few hours in a huge assembly line (that runs very smoothly) to package various kinds of foods in cardboard boxes. We would then load the boxes onto a bus and drive to an elderly home to deliver them. I love being able to see the process from start to finish, from gathering all the pieces together to handing it to an individual and seeing the smile on their faces.
The other form of service can be referred to as indirect volunteering. This probably sounds a little weird. I see it as doing something that will make a difference even if you can’t quite see the end result. A lot of time, it deals with raising awareness about a cause.
I remember working on a Global Leadership project last year. The main objective of Global Leadership is to address an issue in another country and somehow devise a service project to support it. My group had chosen to focus on poverty and hunger in India and we struggled to figure out a project. After all, what could we actually do from half a world away; we couldn’t actually fly there and hand out food (well, not without a whole lot of funding). Instead, we created pins to bring awareness towards the issue. While we couldn’t directly help, it was keeping the issue alive so that it wouldn’t get swept under the rug of the world’s problems.
My first ever project with YVC also deals a lot with indirect volunteering. Every year, we work with Student Rebuild in which we submit certain artworks to raise money for a cause. That year, we were creating pinwheels in support of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. I believe that every pinwheel that we created was $2 towards the cause. While we weren’t actually able to directly help the refugees, I still felt the camaraderie between the volunteers because we knew that our cutting and folding was helping someone.
To me, direct and indirect volunteering are equally as important. They overlap each other in so many ways. Sometimes, you can be the one working in the communities you want to help. Sometimes, you simply don’t have the means to help directly but it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything. It’s a way of empowerment, a way to show that you can make a difference no matter your circumstance.
YVC Brand Ambassador and serves on the International Youth Advisory Board.