Thursday, May 13, 2010

Volunteer Work


Why do we do it?  Who is it serving?  My skepticism of volunteer work started while in high school.  I attended a Catholic high school so community service and other such volunteer work was stressed heavily.  On the surface, volunteer work appears wholesome and innocent, but leave it to us at Not As Good As You Think to shed light on the truth of the matter.  In my experience, the driving force behind most volunteers is self-serving, and the practicality of most volunteer work is questionable.

While in high school, it was impressed upon me that it is important to give back to the community.  My personal understanding of volunteer work is that it should entail donating time and effort for the benefit of others in return for NOTHING.  As I entered into my upperclass high school years (college application time), I noticed this was not the case with the abundance of volunteer work going on.  First of all, community service was mandated by my learning institution.  Technically, my community service was not volunteer work as it was not voluntary.  Let's be honest, high school students do not give a crap about giving back to the community or curing any diseases, they want that "Accepted" letter from their reach school.  Those are the letters that come in the big envelopes, as opposed to the "Rejected" letters (which tell you to fuck off in the upmost fashion) which come in standard envelopes.  High school students volunteer so they can put their work on a college application.  College students volunteer so they can pad their resume.  Most people in the workforce volunteer so they can sell themselves or their company.  You know what, I am guilty as charged.

My problem with all this volunteer work is that most of it has nil effect on the cause promoted.  If you are volunteering with the hopes of promoting yourself to some extent, that is fine as long as what you are doing yields tangible benefits to someone besides yourself.  Two old ladies sitting in lawn chairs under a tree at a par 3 of some charity event handing out sleeves of balls to players that get on the green in regulation are not helping anyone.  I have a lot of ill will towards these "volunteers" from my caddying days.  I would be sweating my glands out on a hot day, arrive at a par 3 and commence with small talk with these middle-aged petitzers who would yammer about how hot it is outside.  Typically, these women were over-privileged stay-in-bed moms married to wealthy guys.  Simply donating your time and showing up is not enough.   Look at the picture below, how many of these people are simply there taking up space?

I admit I do volunteer work for self-advancement. However, the work I do yields tanible benefits to others. Fair enough.  Don't be a walky-talky at some event.  Make sure you are doing something practical.  Build something, fix something, raise money, or give your blood.  If your volunteer work does not entail one of the above, what would you say you do here?