Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a volunteer as a person who does work without getting paid to do it. This explains why volunteering is so unattractive and perhaps treated like leprosy. But, is volunteering a total waste of time? I beg to disagree. Here’s my story:
In 2013, a young visionary by the name Kehinde Fawunmi launched a powerful initiative known as feedONE. It was a social project that aimed to feed thousands of inner city kids in major cities in Nigeria.
The project held simultaneously across Ife, Akure and Lagos. Through another wonderful friend, Samuel, I got involved. We went to villages and orphanages, saw poverty on a massive scale, gave out food, clothes, taught the villagers how to better take care of their health and even make some money. In one orphanage, things were so bad, 4 kids were sharing one toothbrush. One look at the size of the ringworms on their heads and you begin to understand just how fortunate you are to even bath with soap.
When all was said and done, 4000 people were reached in the 3 cities. None of the volunteers received a kobo. Afterall, we volunteered.
Now, why was it an important, life changing experience for all of us?
First, it showed us the extent of work to be done in the rural areas (or sometimes neglected/remote areas) and inspired some of us to launch more ambitious social welfare programs afterwards.
Second, the volunteers were mostly young, inspired, loaded folks who already had a vision of their future. So, networking was pretty fruitful. Think repeat business, think invitations to speak, think global opportunities.
Third, it made our personal profiles (call it CV if you like) massive overnight! Just take a look at this line from my own profile:
“In 2013, He graduated from Psychology department, O.A.U, was nominated as the most outstanding young Nigerian by Junior Chamber International, his short story ‘BIOLA’ was named as one of the top 20 in Africa by Etisalat and He also coordinated/volunteered at FeedOne project which fed & empowered over 4,000 families in Akure, Ife & Lagos”
Because of this project, the initiator has been recognized globally, other volunteers have secured both local & global opportunities.
Fourth, every company wants a smart, visionary, yet responsible young mind and your volunteering activity is perhaps the best endorsement of your character. Find a reason, an excuse, and a place in your heart to volunteer. It could be Red Cross, a fund raiser, an outreach, an international relief program…..get in! Who knows? Apart from the immense satisfaction you get from making the world a better place, you might actually meet someone who works in the company of your dreams or you could simply volunteer in that company for free!
Tell me, who is more likely to be hired, the guy that boasts of a 2:1 with his CV languishing among countless thousand others or the guy who is active in rotary club, red cross, that outreach…..a lady who walks into the company and offers to volunteer for 2 months without pay and promises to deliver strategic value.
Instead of sitting at home doing nothing, Volunteering, my friend, is a far better (though tougher) route to your dream job than traditional job hunting. That reminds me of what Robert Schuller said “Tough times never last, tough people do”.