“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe
The desire to help after witnessing the heartbreaking devastation in Houston last week is overwhelming. As Hurricane Irma bears down on new communities, our hearts are still breaking for the lives lost, and the families that lost everything last week. It is frustrating to see how much help is needed but not to know how to help from a distance, and to realize that donations are the best and most immediate way to do our part. While disasters like Tropical Storm Harvey and the impending landfall of Irma inspire the world to give in the moment, there is a constant need out there for volunteers for countless organizations in communities across the country. It is helpful to have a resource that can direct volunteers to where their help is needed most in their own area.
This past summer dark almond eyes haunted by what they had seen pleaded with me from the freeze frame of a photograph. That child now only lives on as a memory on the walls of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. She could have been my own mother had my ancestors not fled as refugees from Eastern Europe in an earlier wave of persecution. She had my mother’s eyes. But that is not what I was thinking of as I took in the child’s gaze. I was thinking with alarming clarity that I need to do more to help today’s refugees. Right now in our world children are suffering, and families who need help are being turned away. As a fellow human and as a mother to my own children, I knew I needed to figure out how I could help.
For years my volunteer efforts had been focused on my children’s schools and advocating for global vaccines. My inspiration to work with the United Nations Shot@Life Campaign came from extensive travel in developing countries combined with becoming a mother myself in one of the best healthcare systems in the world. I cannot imagine losing a child to a vaccine preventable disease, yet so many mothers around the world do. I realized that despite my lack of a medical degree I could still make a difference by making sure that my local representatives were aware of the importance of funding global vaccines. I learned that we each can use our voice or unique talents to make an impact on the lives of others if we just take the initiative to do so
This time when I returned from my trip abroad I looked up volunteer opportunities in my community on the Reward Volunteers site. Reward Volunteers is not only a website where you can search local opportunities to give back, but organizations and volunteers both benefit when they register with Reward Volunteers. Volunteers are able to log their hours of volunteer work and organizations can register to become a Reward Volunteer Organization. When a volunteer logs in their hours they then are eligible to win prizes for themselves or for the organization with which they are volunteering. Knowing where I wanted to focus my efforts I typed in my interest in helping refugees resettle to my area and the Reward Volunteers site directed me to opportunities at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island where I hope to find a way to help out this fall.
While some days it seems the world has gone mad, I know the best way to cope is to take action. Once I became a mother I quickly realized that if I wanted a certain type of school environment, community, or broader world for my children to live in, I needed to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I never would have predicted that I would end up president of the PTG at my child’s school, on the local Education Foundation board of directors or advocating for global vaccines on Capitol Hill. I would have said, that’s just not me, yet as each opportunity to impact change came along I found myself welcoming the challenge to make whatever small contribution I would be able to make, in whatever way I could. We each have the ability to contribute towards making the world a better place whether by time, treasure or talent. Even if you just touch one life with your efforts, you never know the series of events that impact could set in motion. That’s why I love the idea of a community that encourages and shares ways to give back. Of course the greatest reward is the knowledge that your actions created a positive reaction no matter how small, but the community of Reward Volunteers is a volunteer management system that encourages good by inspiring others in a rewarding way.
I will never forget the photos and stories from my visit to the holocaust museum in Jerusalem this summer. Bearing witness to that piece of history, and coming from a community that has often known how it feels to be strangers in a strange land, has motivated me to reach out to help in any way I can. I continue to advocate for global vaccines abroad, but look forward to the reward of connecting with and giving a hand to someone vulnerable in my own local community as well. We each have the ability to create positive change, if you are looking for a place to start, Reward Volunteers just might inspire you to action.
This sponsored post is part of a campaign with The Mission List for Reward Volunteers. All opinions are my own.