This I Believe

CHAWAPOL - Cork, Ireland
Entered on September 27, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

“You will remain in Ireland longer for what? Volunteering for homeless people is such a waste of time. You should think more for your future.”

That was what my Dad told me on the phone last week when I told him that I wanted to extend my time volunteering to help homeless people in Ireland. Coming from a middle class Chinese family in Thailand, my parents tend to push me towards the way they believe is best for me and my future: studying hard to get into the best universities, getting a good job in the big company, and having a long career there.

Volunteering is a concept they never appreciate. They call it, “Letting others exploit you for free”. Despite them, volunteering is what I have done the most in the last five years. Actually at that time when I started volunteering, I was in a very severe situation from my emotional breakdown in the transition to the university. I was very lonely and vulnerable. I had to wear a fake-smile mask to the university everyday to pretend that I was fine. I made no friend in my university and I could not trust anyone.

My life started to change gradually after I started volunteering with the university magazine which aimed at protecting the rights of the students. I started to make friends with students from the diverse backgrounds. My friendship with them started to develop from time as we work together towards the same belief. Through my time in the magazine and their friendship, I started to gain my self-respect back and became happier with my university life. I was chosen to become the editor of the magazine in my second year with them. The responsibility of being the editor boosted my self-confidence and even developed my leadership skills. I become more and more active, energetic, and optimistic without consciously realizing it.

Amazing opportunities came to me to further expand my horizon afterwards. I was chosen to represent my country in many international youth conferences, won the scholarship to study in Japan for a year, and got an internship with the World Bank. On reflection, I believe that it was the experience I gained from volunteering, combined with a strong giving spirit that have transformed me to be a brand new person.

I believe that even volunteering is primarily to help others; you always get back much more in return. Frankly, the volunteering I have done may not improve the student right in my university significantly. It may lead to better quality of life of some homeless people in Ireland. But, personally speaking I can see how much I get back in return. Now I am happy with my life. I get my whole life back from the deep dark hole of depression. And, I also have a bright future waiting for me.

Could I ask for more from volunteering? I do not think so.