Several years ago, I had a desire to do volunteer work. During my search, I came across many great causes, yet, it wasn’t until I learned about volunteering in a capacity that assisted groups of individuals working in public safety that I decided that this was a group of people I could commit to helping. For the last number of years, I have volunteered as a mental health person for a critical incident stress management team that assists public safety personnel after the exposure to a critical incident. As soon as I learned about what I would being doing for this demographic, I felt this was an area where I could give support and help others; especially a demographic that at times, is met with scrutiny and/or lack of understanding for what is endured.
As mentioned, as a volunteer, I work with public safety personnel after a critical incident. This is done in a group setting during a debriefing or defusing. Recordings of any kind are not permitted, and everything is treated with the upmost confidentiality. There is a sense of comradery within the group that appears to assist with healing. A debriefing or defusing is not therapy. However, it is therapeutic for individuals that work in public safety after the exposure to one or more critical incidents.
In addition, we refer individuals for therapy if an individual is grappling with trauma from the exposure to a critical incident and would benefit from further assistance. Many times, debriefings and defusing simultaneously assist with decreasing high levels of stress, decreasing the need for therapy, and increasing resources available for an individual that may feel a therapeutic relationship is beneficial to further healing.
Much of the time, volunteers experience a high level of compassion satisfaction and feel a sense of accomplishment in assisting a demographic that at times, suffers in silence. For me, volunteer work is something I feel passionate about; I’m thankful for the opportunity to help groups of people that give so much of themselves to others, and am able to balance my time volunteering with each of the facets of my busy schedule.
I have had both clients and friends mention that they would like to take an active role in volunteer work, yet, aren’t sure “what to do”. Does a person need to do formal volunteer work or is a person able to give to others and the community in other ways? Of course, an individual is able to give in other ways or possibly by offering your time to a combination of each. There are many ways to volunteer your time and to benefit your community, and society as a whole.
Additionally, if volunteer work becomes too much to balance, is overextending one’s reserves and energies, and/or contributes to trauma, then it’s perfectly appropriate to take a break or find another cause that works with your life and current circumstances. At times, volunteering your time is helping your neighbor with yard work, or picking up groceries for someone that is ill. Others, it’s taking time out of your day to call a person that could use the support. Giving is an important part of life. Many times, it assists the volunteer as much as the individual(s) being helped. There is a sense of compassion, gratitude, and satisfaction in helping others; especially in giving your time. Volunteer work is beneficial for each person in life. My child helps our neighbor with yard work consistently. This is a way that she is able to give, learn, and grow as a person. This is a way that our neighbor is able to engage in generativity by teaching about planting and various other aspects about life and nature. As a parent, I appreciate these aspects of life.
It is important to find volunteer work that it comfortable for an individual and works with a person’s busy life; especially in today’s society. Many, including myself, balance many facets of day to day life. This includes family, friends, community, career, self-care, rest and relaxation (some may be saying what is that), and various other facets of life.
Ask yourself these few questions as a start in considering if volunteer work is something that would work with your life:
- Is this something I could be interested in and visualize myself doing with consistency?
- Is this a demographic I am motivated to help and in what ways?
- Will this type of volunteer work and the position I am considering work with my schedule and/or my family’s schedule in each area of life?
- Is this something I will be able to balance with my current life style, if not, am I willing to make the necessary adjustments to do so?
- Will I be able to maintain my current commitment(s) to myself and others?
- Will this type of volunteer work contribute to any trauma and/or trigger past trauma; if this probability is present, what resources are available for supports through the volunteer work and in my personal life?
- Is this an area I could thrive in and in what ways would I be able to help others?
This is not a comprehensive list, yet, a starting place to consider. At the end of each day, many could benefit from giving time to volunteer to a demographic that speaks to you as an individual.
Please share your experiences with volunteer work. What brought you towards that demographic and the type of work? How do you feel after you assist this demographic? Is there anything you sacrifice to give to others, if so, is it something you’re able to balance and feels beneficial? What benefits do you experience personally from volunteering?
Learn, grow, & enjoy,