Answer the Call to Serve: Volunteer

Does this sound familiar? You’re running through each week with no time to pause, feeling like you’re barely able to juggle personal and professional obligations. Despite your best efforts at planning and managing tasks, there is always more to accomplish. When you are at home, you are greeted by endless amounts of cleaning, chores, cooking and family needs. You would like to do something more impactful to help others, but how can that be possible, when it seems you cannot even help yourself? Trust me, you are not alone.

Arguably, the pandemic helped to sharply focus our lives and priorities. Many discovered a renewed sense of appreciation for those on the front line, including emergency and health professionals, teachers and essential services personnel. Many have also felt a calling to pitch in and do what they can to serve. The massive shift to virtual work and interaction has created more opportunities for virtual volunteerism. It is important to know that there are varying levels of commitment in terms of hours, flexibility in schedule, and even the location where the work is performed. It may seem daunting but it is easy to get started:

  1. Think about the causes that are important to you. What motivates and inspires you to serve?
  2. Do some research. VolunteerMatch.org, Catchafire.org and AmeriCorps.gov all feature excellent opportunities. You can find volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn as well.
  3. Decide what level of commitment you can offer. You can always start small, and expand in time. Be realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  4. When ready, research and apply for volunteer positions. There is absolutely no harm in applying. At a minimum, you will learn about organizations and they will learn about you. You will be able to decide if the mission and activities or position align with your interests, goals and abilities.
  5. If you are employed, you may want to consider discussing your goals and the opportunity with your supervisor. Be sure to obtain approval to engage in outside work if needed. If you aren’t employed, volunteering is a terrific springboard to a job, should you be looking.

Volunteer work helps to address critical needs, and volunteers benefit from helping others, growing personally and professionally. Moreover, the 2020 America’s Health Rankings Report shared findings that there are health benefits associated with volunteering, such as improved mortality as compared with those who don’t volunteer, lower risk of developing high blood pressure, and improved mental health, to name only a few.

The steps outlined above led me to my current volunteer position. Day in and day out, I work to support my agency in delivering its critical mission of protecting public health. Despite having little to no spare time, I was inspired to see how I could support public health in other meaningful ways through volunteering. By taking these steps, I discovered a perfect opportunity to volunteer. Additionally, through the process, I also discovered a wonderful opportunity that I ultimately decided not to pursue. These are personal and important decisions. I am realistic about the amount of time I can devote to my volunteer work, and am open to discussing it with the organization and my family so it does not cause an imbalance.

There are so many ways to help. Even if you are not ready for a position, there are countless other ways to volunteer, such as through blood or food donation.

Do you have a calling to serve that is waiting to be answered?

Note: This writing was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the FDA, DHHS or Federal Government.

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Christine is Deputy Director, Office of Ethics and Integrity of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This article was prepared by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the FDA, DHHS or the federal government. Christine also serves as a Community Volunteer Leader for the American Red Cross, Montgomery, Howard, and Frederick County Chapter, and on the advisory committee for her city pool and fitness center. She is inspired to write about endurance, volunteerism, and career management, among other topics. In her “spare” time she is an avid swimmer and runner, and enjoys spending time with her family, friends and pets. Her motto is: “Work hard, play hard.”

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