The UN defines volunteerism as a basic expression of human relationships: the need people have to participate in their societies and to feel that they matter to others. Volunteering creates social relationships that are intrinsic to the work and are critical to individual and community wellbeing. The ethos of volunteerism is infused with values such as solidarity, reciprocity, mutual trust, belonging and empowerment, all of which contribute to quality of life. Many of these values are under threat in the current US political and social climate of increasing division and animosity.

Volunteer services should never be seen as a solution to the ever increasing gaps in the health system, but at this time, volunteerism can help support those most in need AND contribute to building healthy and inclusive societies in the widest sense.

Kayoko is a former teacher who realized that her children are almost grown, and wanted to “have something of my own” through service to the community.  She began as a Coming Home Connection volunteer several years ago, and after a four-year hiatus, returned in the fall of 2017 to volunteer and to become a professional caregiver, with a renewed sense of purpose and a “beginner’s mind”.  She shares her story:

“I show up with a willingness to learn. It’s exciting to find there are multiple levels of caregiving, and that there are different types of caregivers. For me, it feels like a calling, a form of spiritual practice. I’ve always felt an affinity to the elderly, children and people with disabilities, those on the edge of society, perhaps because I never quite belonged growing up in Japan. I knew I had a gift of being present for one person, just to be able to listen. The little that I can do to relieve another’s discomfort, what an honor to do this. So this kind of volunteering comes naturally to me.

What I get out of it is more than I can give. I don’t think clients know that they are helping me in some many ways. I grow not only in experience and skills, but as a whole person. It makes me think about how I would be if I were in need of help.

The gifts that I receive from helping are something deeply felt in my heart, and nothing can take that away.”

Follow your passion, volunteer, and like most volunteers you may find that your get back much more than you give!

This blog topic was submitted by SFHN Member, Frances Salles at Coming Home Connection. Visit www.cominghomeconnection.org for more information.