Volunteering Essay Example

A lot of us take the things we have on a daily basis for granted; our comfy beds, clothes and healthy relationships with support and guidance. When hardships take place in an individual's life, it’s important that they reach out to others and seek support - sometimes these options aren’t available to everyone. Alcohol and drugs can significantly impact a person's life for the worse, you can lose your job, money, relationships, and more. In essence, everything you own or love can disappear in a matter of months and it becomes natural to feel hopeless. That being said, it’s never too late to change a negative into a positive. Fortunately, there is an abundance of different non-profit organizations, one being Oxford House. Oxford House is an organization that provides shelter and support for addicts who seek sobriety and a better quality of life.

During my adolescence, I grew up in a nice area with a supportive family, little did I know at the time that I was extremely lucky to have my parents guide and support me in a healthy and safe environment. As time moves forward, we become adults and handle things in our own individual ways. Sometimes our coping methods include negative influences in our lives, such as alcohol, drugs, un-prescribed pills and other addictive substances. According to authors Didenko and Pankratz, “Two-thirds of homeless people report that drugs and/or alcohol were a major reason for their becoming homeless” (Didenko & Pankratz, 2007). Homelessness can be considered the main byproduct of substance abuse, as I mentioned before, it all seems to trickle down starting with your job, money and relationships.

For my service project I had originally decided on a hospital to volunteer at, this plan did not pan out. The paperwork process was extremely long and I failed to hear back from the hospital in time. After I realized this, I decided to reach out to my social circle. One of my friends was planning on volunteering as well, I researched and decided upon the non-profit organization known as Oxford House. Oxford House is an extremely helpful organization that provides shelter and basic needs for recovering addicts. Oxford House has been active since 1975. Since then over 400,000 recovering addicts have been sheltered. In 2017, the organization stated, “Over the last 43 years, about 400,000 individuals have lived in an Oxford House and most have stayed clean and sober” (Oxford House Annual Report, 2017).

Before I began this endeavor, I had no idea about how such non-profits worked or what I should expect. I had only volunteered once at a veterinary before, it was great and I learned a lot, this volunteer service was quite different from that experience. On my way to the Oxford House, I felt nervous and unsure, I don’t normally work around recovering addicts and the anticipation was daunting. My friend and I arrived at a house that shined beautifully with a white fence, it was distinct - I didn’t expect a maintained house. I noticed at this point how disillusioned I had been in regards to this situation or how I anticipated the house to be located in the ghetto or barely standing, based off of how modern society labels this group of people. When Oxford House invites you, you are assigned a house for your volunteer services, As I anticipated I was to work next to recovering addicts that lived at the residence. My outlook was negative during a positive situation - this changed quickly.

I approached the door and met two women who were extremely friendly and thankful that I came. This took me by surprise; they seemed so joyful and professional. I thought to myself, "Is it fair to judge them based off their past decisions, was it okay to critique them before meeting them?" I quickly made the decision that I was going to execute this project with an open mind and dedication, and do everything I could do to help, regardless of their past mistakes. We spoke briefly before we started the project, exchanging conversation and connecting with each other. Both women were extremely proud of their progress that many of them thought impossible, they spoke about the program and considered the non-profit organization to be “lifesaving”.

After the initial meeting, I realized that we really related to each other in many ways. I learned a valuable lesson at this moment. I realized there are many benefits in volunteering, meeting others, sharing stories, and putting forth an effort to better your community - even if that means you’re only a small drop in the bucket, it was truly just as important to impact and help improve these people's lives. Following this, we began raking out excess dirt from beneath the bush, we managed to get the spare leaves as well. During our cleaning session, they spoke about their mower not working properly; I decided to take this opportunity to help them.

I looked at the lawn mower and realized there were limited amounts of gas or oil inside and the engine would smoke when I attempted to start it. I believe a mixture of both liquids made its way inside the engine. I also noticed that the blade needed to be sharpened as well. I let the lawnmower drain in a large bucket while I grabbed oil and gas. I proceeded to find a blade sharpener and quickly sharpened the lawn mower blade while waiting for the mower to finish draining. After re-attaching the blade, I topped off the oil and gas and it started up perfectly without smoke. The ladies were thankful and surprised that it began, I offered them help in the future if they had any issues with the lawn mower again, It truly impacted me what I had done for them.

We continued working outside which involved, lawn mowing, edging, power washing, planting flowers, removal of excess dirt, scraping moss, bush trimming, sweeping, weed picking and more. Throughout this experience, I remained positive and over my time there I wanted to constantly increase my contribution. The residents at Oxford eventually opened up about their stories, past and present. I was intrigued, empathetic, and cared to hear their story. I naturally listened to their stories mostly through nonverbal back-channel cues such as head nodding and eye contact. When I knew it was my turn to talk I respectfully asked appropriate questions regarding what they had shared with me. Comprehending their stories through responsive listening wasn’t tough. I found myself increasingly engaged as they spoke about their past and present avenues in life, much like the author Jones, R.G. stated in our classroom book, “Think about how it’s much easier to listen to a lecture on a subject that you find very interesting” (Jones, 2013).

After hours of conversing and yard work, we put everything away and cleaned the tools we worked with. I took the lawn mower blade off once again to sharpen it for future use. The women were thankful for everything and appreciated the work we accomplished together. After the connections I felt we had made, I left both of the residents with my contact number if they were ever in need of anything. I didn’t foresee this happening. My mentality completely changed. My negative stereotypical views regarding recovering addicts or individuals struggling with addiction had completely changed, I now feel like I turned a negative into a positive, much like they did. Thankfully, I noticed some personal growth on my side, turning my narrow-minded approach into a open minded outcome.

Helping the community through volunteering and other non-profit organizations is a great way to give back. As I approached the residential area, I had embedded negative thoughts toward this volunteering service, without reason, only misjudgment. After listening to their stories it opened my eyes to hear how rough they had it growing up. One of them had no supervision and eventually began taking drugs at 12 years old. It dawned on me how easily this could have been me. As I spoke earlier about the safe neighborhood and caring family, I came to realize that without the safe neighborhood and caring family, I could have easily been in her situation. This realization of mine erased the stereotype I once had, I could relate and understand how lonely a life without family and a safe environment could be. It’s important for anyone going through such adversity to feel connected and empowered through a community without the fear of being labeled and acknowledgment as human beings who are trying to better themselves.


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