One of the biggest things that initially made me unmotivated or unenthusiastic about volunteering with YVC was that I didn’t see the “endpoint” or “goal” of the work we were doing. Of course, it is incredibly satisfying to see something you worked hard on reach its goal. However, when volunteering in most places, this is rarely the case. This is because the progress and change through volunteer work, in most cases, takes time. A very strong example of this lesson that YVC taught me was when I worked in a community garden.
The first “step” of my experience working there happened in May, when we cleaned and weeded beds for planting. I didn’t think very far into to the future of what would happen to the bed at that point in time, so I didn’t really think of how useful it might end up being to the garden. The work was relatively easy, but by the end of it, I didn’t feel as if I made a huge difference in my community. This was because I didn’t really see it benefiting anyone immediately.
However, during a summer YVC camp in late June I saw the bed, only it was overgrown with strawberry plants. We were told to pick the strawberries so that they could be given to a local food bank. The work was suddenly easier than the weeding project I did in May, because each time I picked a strawberry, I held the result of all the work in my hand. I had that feeling of satisfaction that I did make a difference in my community because I knew that those strawberries would eventually find their way to the food bank and then, finally, into the hands of someone who needed them.
That experience changed the perspective I have on volunteer projects that seem to be incomplete. Instead of looking at projects like the seemingly incomplete one in May as useless because they don’t seem to have any immediate effect on the community, I began to look at them as if they were a step on the path to completion. In the garden experience I shared, there are a lot of steps within it to reach the end goal. First, we had to weed and clear the beds. Second, someone, most likely other volunteers at the community garden, had to plant the strawberries. Third, someone had to pick them, and later, of course, they would have to be sent to the food bank and distributed. Even in this example, I “skipped” steps that would lead to the overall goal, such as the planting and sending the strawberries to the food bank. This experience gave me more patience when it came to seeing the progress made on volunteer projects, as each project was just a piece of the puzzle.
One of the coolest parts of seeing the “before and after” part of the process was that I got to experience the result of what I did and worked on. This really motivated me to work hard on any project, even if it seems like it doesn’t make an impact immediately. This was because I saw that all of the projects eventually make a difference, just some faster than others.