Lately, I have been feeling really grateful for the wonderful life I am blessed with. I just completed my lifelong dream of earning a Masters degree and having my parents visit me in the United States for my graduation ceremony, thereby giving them a chance to travel abroad for the first time. The contentment and happiness I feel right now urges me to give back to the community and city that I love so much. With that intent, I registered for the non-profit organization, New York Cares, as a volunteer.
Before volunteering with the organization, you first have to attend a mandatory orientation session. I attended the orientation on the morning of Friday, June 02, at the New York Cares office on Wall Street (I think, not sure of all streets yet). The session was led by a New York Cares pro, a 77-year old energetic person who has been volunteering with the organization for over 20 years. The organization itself is 30 years old and still going strong. The session was well-attended with a room full of people from different age, ethnic, and professional groups. We were informed about the purpose of the organization, the types of volunteering opportunities, the expectations from volunteers, and the sign-up process. New York Cares provides volunteering opportunities across the board. You can volunteer for projects that work for children, immigrants, elderly, homeless, or even furry friends. The areas of operation include education, fulfilling immediate needs like food and clothing, and beautifying public spaces. I like that I can volunteer for different projects and figure out where my talents and skills can help the most.
My first impression of New York Cares was that it is very organized and professionally run. Just the fact that they conducted an orientation and hold their volunteers accountable for honoring their commitments is laudable. In my experience volunteering in India, most of the volunteers seemed to consider themselves to be better than the people they were serving and expected some form of social accolades for volunteering their time and efforts. That always bugged me. I consider volunteering as a form of service to our fellow beings (human or animal), and a way to share the abundance of time, energy, skill, and money that I am blessed with. I believe in dignity of the people we serve, and that’s precisely what I noticed at New York Cares. The organization seems to function with the ideology that we are just sharing the gifts we have with each other, and that we gain as much knowledge and experience from the volunteering activities as those we serve. They even call the people being served as “clients”, not “beneficiaries”, which I found to be very telling of their attitude towards those we serve.
Another factor that influenced my decision to volunteer with New York Cares is that it gives me the opportunity to directly interact with people whose lives I may touch. In case of organizations where I make monetary contributions, I am never fully aware of how my contributions affect others. But with New York Cares, I can spend one afternoon teaching a senior citizen how to use the Internet and open up a whole new world for them. Or I can assist an non-native English speaker get better at conversational English, and empower them to live their lives more comfortably in this city. These opportunities to see for myself how my contributions benefit others are reason enough to be excited about my first volunteering experience next week. Can’t wait to get started!