“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

I have a high appreciation for volunteers. I believe that it is what real service is all about. Doing something good for the world, seldom being paid, most of the time actually taking money out of one’s pocket just to give a personal value of service, isn’t that noble? Isn’t that good? That, I guess, is the only noble thing left in this world, volunteering. And you have to trust the heart of a volunteer. There’s no financial gratification in it for them but they go on motivating people, helping the poor, the sick and the needy, giving themselves without asking anything in return. Many times, I wish, I had the heart and the spirit of a real volunteer.

I am not alien to volunteering. But the volunteer jobs I have taken is nothing compared to Mother Teresa’s. I try to volunteer for organizations — steering committee, food committee, games committee. I started volunteering when I was young — taking minutes of meetings in organizations I joined, doing administrative and secretarial work, representing for the community. I remember even teaching cathechism as a volunteer in our community every summer. But that is nothing compared to more popular volunteers who dedicated their lives feeding the hungry, comforting the sick, aiding the elderly and reaching out to the handicapped.

Currently, I am in my third volunteer job since I was in the Netherlands. My first volunteer job was for an online magazine where I wrote about integration in the Netherlands. Then I got a real job and didn’t pursue that work anymore. Since we came from the Philippines in March, it was difficult to get a full time job that would agree with my recent schedule (I am still self-studying Dutch and will go to the university in November), needs and interests. So I used that time to do volunteer work. I have two volunteer jobs, one in the community center and another for Sezer consult — the organization that takes care of the integration courses of mothers here in Vlaardingen.

When people learn that I am doing volunteer work, they wonder why. Some assume that it’s because I have a lot of time in my hands to do it. In short, walang magawa. Maybe some also think that it’s because nobody wants to pay me. Of course they won’t say that to your face but you see it in their eyes. But I don’t really care because I know that those are the people who do not understand what volunteer work is all about. Plus I really love the fact that I am able to do the volunteer jobs that I do right now. At the buurthuis, I help with the PR of projects. I asked my “boss” if I can write the press release for our next coffee discussion, she allowed me and I’m very excited about that. =) For Sezer, I support the NT2 (Dutch as 2nd language) teacher and students — part conduit, part motivator, part friend.

It is good for my integration, network and my practice of the Dutch language. My perspective is that when it comes to learning/education, exposure is the best teacher. Anything that exposes you to people — all kinds of people — is good for you. Especially when you are working with fellow volunteers. You see heart in it, you see passion, you see personalized service. And if it exposes you to problem people? Then your spirit is tested, the way you choose and the way you rationalize. The way you solve problems is honed.

Sometimes volunteer work so contents me that I feel that it does not constitute to volunteer work anymore. But that’s also the thing with volunteer work — it may not be financially gratifying, but certainly, personally satisfying. That was also one thing I liked in my practice of journalism before, getting involved, more than getting a first row in the development of history. Volunteering involves you with lives, with people, with the society. And just imagine the world without community service. However strong governments become, they still need volunteers. Because the human factor is of primary importance. It is in the giving of ourselves that we truly live.

Just imagine the world without its volunteer activists. The Netherlands without Willem van Oranje, the Philippines without Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, Scotland without William Wallace. All revolutions start with volunteers. And all activism is volunteering because it is done without the thought of earning a living, but the thought of fighting for what one passionately cares about. Most of the time, it is freedom. Just imagine the world without the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

I was sitting with a friend a week ago talking about our volunteer jobs. I met her here in the Netherlands and since then has been close to my heart because she also has the heart of a volunteer. I admire people with passion. Talk about rebels without a cause. But we do have our own causes, she with the environment and I with integration. We felt that we are only accepted as volunteers because it is seldom paid. Because paid work is difficult to find. (It also depends on what you look for though, we were both schooled and want to work for companies where we can practice our dutch.) I don’t remember how the conversation ended, but a good way to end it would be, “Volunteers are seldom paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless!”

So to people out there, especially the ones who have time in their hands, I say, go out and volunteer! It is good for your spirit and your heart. For immigrants who cannot at the moment get paid work because of documents or the language barrier, go out and volunteer! It is good for your integration, network and language skills. You do not need a degree to serve, you do not need to be grammatically correct to serve, you just have to have a graceful and a grateful heart. #