100 Days of Volunteering

It all started with some resolutions...

I always wake up on New Year's Day with a sense of optimism for the new year that's just beginning, even though characteristically the day is no different from the previous day. Sometimes, it's a hungover feeling of optimism, but this year I was in reasonably good shape when I woke up. As is also usual, at some point in the mid-morning of New Year's Day, I started thinking about resolutions. I don't like to set myself more than three resolutions (if I set them at all) because if you're going to successfully resolve yourself, you have to be realistic about the challenges you set. I came up with two resolutions quite easily; drink more water and write at least one blog post a week. They both seemed pretty straightforward and attainable. Good start.

Without further reflection on my resolutions, I settled into a late morning shift with Shout 85258, the crisis text helpline. Not everyone wakes up with a sense of optimism on New Year's Day, and some people just need to talk to someone - especially after the year we just bade farewell to. It was a busy shift, and I ended up taking my 50th conversation which is a bit of a milestone and I felt really quite proud of that. It was perhaps because of the positive feelings this milestone invoked that I thought 'what if I could keep this up for 100 days?'. I wasn't talking about volunteering with Shout every day for 100 days; no, I was thinking...

Is this feasible, and can I make it happen?

The Guardian recently wrote about 2020 being a special year for the volunteer, after seeing the volunteer society mobilise like never before, and I feel like it's important that we keep the volunteer momentum going because it helps make our society more positive. In our current situation, despite the vaccine hopes, we keep being put under harsher restrictions, so it's important to find something that makes you feel liberated. Volunteering fulfils this for me, and gives me freedom where otherwise I would be confined to a lockdown dominated by a futile job search. When you volunteer you can choose your cause, choose what you want to give to that cause and make a choice about how much time you want to give to it.

Also, when you volunteer you don't necessarily have to do it for charity - you can help anyone you like. A volunteer is a person who does a job without being paid for it, and you can set your own boundaries when it comes down to choosing what you want to do. Go shopping for a neighbour, buy an extra bag of rice and put it in the food bank basket at the supermarket - it's more about doing something good because you WANT to do it and not because you're under any obligation.

Getting started... let's do this!

I'd already completed Day 1 of my 100 Days without even thinking about it, just because I'd completed my Shout shift for New Year's Day, and I also called my Age UK telephone friend to wish her a Happy New Year which also counts. I have at least two Shout shifts per week, and I call Lady T once a week - so that's three days taken care of, surely that'll be easy?

Without realising it, I'd already put in a lot of groundwork during most of 2020, by establishing some great relationships with organisations both local and national, all of whom are welcome to utilise my skills for free (for the next 100 Days at least). That being said, you don't have to be good or skilled at anything in particular to give your time, you simply have to be good. With at least eight charities to do things for, I should be able to do at least one task a day for 100 days...

Well, yes and no. If I'm going to do at least one volunteering task every day for 100 days, I don't want it to be doing the exact same tasks I've been doing since last March the whole time. While I will rely on my regular volunteer roles to ensure I complete my 100 Day Challenge, I want to also discover new volunteering experiences which will be fulfilling and also will help people to understand what giving yourself can give back to you in return.

By doing at least one volunteerial thing for someone else every day for 100 days, what do I think will happen?

I'm curious to know the effect this will have on me and also where the journey will take me. I'm able to do this because I have the means, motive and opportunity to do it. I have some time on my hands while I try to figure out where it is that I really want to go with my career, I'm motivated to help people because I want to add value and where better to do it than with good causes? The opportunity is there for me because I'm currently not financially constrained to getting the first job that comes along (although that won't last forever).

Will constant kindness have a lasting effect on my mental health? Will I figure out exactly where it is I want to go with my career? Will this get me a job? What if I decide halfway through that this is all bullshit and not finish it? Will I get new followers on social media? Will I get Covid?

Rather fittingly, my parter gave me the book Human Kind by Rutger Bregman for Christmas. I've just started it, but I'm thinking that it will be the ideal companion for me as I wade through this 100 day journey. It talks of the capacity that humans have for goodness, and questions why it is natural for the gut to assume that we can't trust people - why not just assume the best in people? We saw at the beginning of the Covid pandemic that humans have the capacity to be amazing during a crisis, but as we course through a third lockdown, people are getting tired - does that mean they are getting tired of being nice to one another? I certainly haven't lost my appetite for volunteering and giving back, and because I am naturally positive I want to assume that I'm not alone in that.

Let's not forget about the New Year's Resolutions

I've been drinking at least two pints of plain water a day, something I started a few days before NYE and I feel better already. With the blog posts, I shouldn't in theory have to really think too much about that, as I'll be writing about my experiences daily and will be able to publish them - although I don't want my audience to get Sarah Fatigue if they hear too much from me so I might still keep that down to a weekly/twice weekly blog.

If you need a hand with anything over the next 100 days, now is probably a good time to hit me up. While my time is filling up nicely, I'm definitely open to considering new challenges to make this next 100 Days as interesting as possible. Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye...

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