More Than Just a Volunteer

2017 Volunteer Story Contest Winner

By Andrea Haller, Mercy Volunteer Corps

Dear Future Volunteer,
This soon-to-be title of yours makes you so much more than you now know. Yes, you will be volunteering as a nurse, or teacher, or social worker, or care provider. These are all important roles – but as your service progresses, you will realize you have taken on many more roles than you first intended. 
Last August, I joined Mercy Volunteer Corps, and set off for Georgetown, Guyana in South America, where I began my year of service as Intervention Specialist for a primary school at a boys’ orphanage. I was thrilled to bring my knowledge and skills to a place that had never had special education services before. I would be able to help children who felt stuck. Within the first month, I realized that I was needed for many more reasons. 
When the boys cut their feet while running barefoot in the field, they needed someone to clean and bandage their wounds. I became a nurse, even though I hate the sight of blood. When they got into rough fights with other boys, they needed hugs and consolation, so I became a comforting mother to boys who couldn’t be with their families. My boys also needed a girl’s advice as they developed crushes, so I became a friend with whom they could share gossip and laugh about their flirting slip-ups. They craved attention, so I became their biggest fan and cheerleader. My favorite role of all came when the boys needed someone to lovingly pick on – so I became their sister. I started the year with three brothers and now I am proud to have 55.
My heart overflows with love when I realize these new roles I have been granted through service. I did not intend for this to happen – however, I’m so glad it did, because it is the most rewarding part of my volunteer experience. The additional roles you take on will be the most meaningful and fulfilling piece of your service. You will realize your strength, your purpose, and how deeply you can love. Your service has no limits, so let go of expectations for your work and dive in. Of course, it is far from easy, but I promise it is worth it.

Over time, I realized that I also had to make time for self-care. I couldn’t always fill every role when I neglected myself. I learned that self-care was necessary to be healthy and to fulfill my many roles successfully. So as you dive in, don’t lose yourself. Your first  role is to take good care of yourself. When you fulfill that role successfully you will become a volunteer, and more. 
Let yourself go beyond your title of nurse, teacher, social worker, care provider, and so forth. You are a volunteer now. Take that title and be everything you can be for the people you serve. You will be fulfilled and transformed. Amazing roles and experiences are ahead, Future Volunteer, I assure you.
Andrea Haller
Intervention Specialist (Nurse, Mom, Friend, Cheerleader, Sister)

To learn more about service opportunities through Mercy Volunteer Corps, please click here.  
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