Yair and I have both mentioned the obstacles and barriers to short-term volunteering. Over the past ten days, I made multiple phone calls to organizations offering them my skills for 6 weeks – for free! – with little result. Even Goodwill’s job placement centers are wary about taking on a short-term volunteer, despite my background in the field. I don’t plan on giving up, but I definitely have more empathy for people who are searching for paying jobs.
Last week I began volunteering for Food for Lane County, a commendable organization that seamlessly salvages food that would otherwise be wasted and distributes the food to people who would otherwise go hungry. From the very first moments of my volunteer shift, I experienced an energy boost and felt more like myself than I have in months. Community service and giving are core parts of my identity that I have nourished in many ways over the years and it struck me that this period of travel was the first time in my life that I have not been involved in these things. Returning to volunteering almost felt like I was highly protein deficient but didn’t realize it until I had a good (black bean!) burger and became myself again.
RVing has been amazing and we’ll continue with it for some time, but I’m done with randomly traveling for the heck of it. Travel and hobbies and people are all wonderful side dishes so-to-speak, but my main course needs to be service and community organizing – and I don’t want to go another full year before jumping back into things.
We’ve encountered many people in Eugene who are “underprivileged”, and who tell Yair and I how we can easily access social services here: free food, clothes, showers, laundry. Rather than families down on their luck, many of these people seem to young, substance using wanderers who in some sense are improperly taking advantage of the system. (This makes me a bit uneasy.) It’s wonderful that social services exist, but my resounding reaction is that I am not meant to be on the receiving end of these services. I don’t want to take them. I don’t need to take them. I wouldn’t take them. I want to give and help others. I’m ready to be “a citizen” and use my skills for that.
We have at least six months of cool places that we will be visiting (San Francisco, Vegas, Tucson, Austin) that correspond with Faces of Israel programs that I have booked, but I am looking forward to finding and creating volunteer opportunities over the next six months and then perhaps staying in one area for a while in order to jump in, get my hands dirty and make a modicum of a difference in the local community.
posted by ayo