What is the correlation between duration of stay and amount of difference made? Does it mean the longer I stay, the more change I see? Would I make any difference at all if I stay for only 2 weeks?
One of the greatest things about living in the volunteer house for an extended period of time is the chance to meet volunteers from across the globe. I’ve had the privilege of meeting volunteers from the US, Australia and Denmark to name a few. Some stayed for months while others were here for 2 weeks. Despite the difference in time period, we all had one question in mind. Are we making a difference in our projects?
Whenever the volunteers gathered, we talked about the progress we were making. We each had different experiences simply because we were in different projects. Some worked in kindergartens and orphanages while others worked in health clinics and soup kitchens. We came with expectations, some of them met, some not and others exceeded.
Personally, I believe that one should set goals before thinking of volunteering. Sure it’s only natural to have expectations for yourself and for the projects you undertake. But I’m almost 95% sure that the majority of those goals would change week by week. You never know exactly what to expect until you get to the volunteering site. Furthermore, many of us volunteers could only speak basic Spanish and some couldn’t even speak Spanish at all. We each had different struggles and when we shared them, we realized we all had the same question in mind.
A fellow volunteer from Australia faced a lot of difficulty communicating with the teachers in the kindergarten and felt rather exasperated at some points. A volunteer from Israel didn’t feel like she was doing enough with the kids she was volunteering with. A communications volunteer felt she was not being resourceful enough without having sufficient equipment to execute tasks.
It is normal to experience negative emotions. We always expect to see change immediately but if we’re being completely honest, visible change never happens in a day or two. It’s a long term process but what we fail to realize is that the effects are immediate. You make an impact on the people you work with. By just being there, you leave a lasting impression. In that one day, you’ve perhaps made the tasks easier for others.
“People will forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel”
The answer is yes. You are. You are making a difference. You could be there for a day, a week or even a month and the answer will always be a ‘yes’ as long as you’re there with the intention of helping. Be a volunteer and be a part of that difference.