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#43 Be. Young, Be. You 4: Change-Maker Burnout

Erin Gough, author of Be. Young Be. YouUsually when I’m asked to write a blog, I have a topic in mind. This time, however, I’ve struggled to come up with something to write about. I’ve had a few ideas, but nothing that has actually inspired me enough to sit down and write about it. Come to think of it, I haven’t been feeling very inspired in general lately. I was trying to think of a way to describe this feeling and one phrase came to mind: “Change-Maker’s Burnout.”

I volunteer a lot of my time to change-making initiatives and groups and often hold leadership roles within these. I enjoy volunteering working with other volunteers, but it can also be hard, slow-paced work with seemingly little reward at times. Another email rejecting my request for sponsorship for an event I’m trying to run; another last-minute venue or speaker cancelation; another case of having to take over a task myself because the person originally in charge has pulled out. Sometimes it all gets too much and I just can’t be bothered! But while this feeling is distressing, uncomfortable, and just downright frustrating, it is also a good time for me to reflect on why I choose to volunteer in the ways that I do.

So, why do I do it?

I thought this would be an easy question to answer, but I’ve been pondering it for a while and it hasn’t been as clear-cut as I thought. Obviously I enjoy being active in my community, but why? Obviously I enjoy making some kind of positive change, but how much change am I actually making and what or who am I making change to?

So many questions! Time for some answers, at least in regards to myself – everyone’s reasons are going to be different.

I volunteer because…

Erin with the other members of JCI Christchurch

  1. I have spare time and would like to use some of it in a productive way (at least more productive than stalking people on Facebook!).
  2. I enjoy the challenge of taking on new roles within the groups in which I volunteer. For example, though I’ve never had any experience in marketing, I am in charge of the marketing and communications within my role as Vice President of JCI Christchurch; a youth organisation giving young people personal and professional development opportunities through running grass-root projects and events, comprised solely of volunteers. This is a great learning experience for me – a way to use skills I already have and also a way to gain new ones.
  3. It is a way of meeting new people and making new friends I wouldn’t otherwise make. My network has expanded significantly because of it and I have a diverse range of friends from all over the world. It has also given me the opportunity to volunteer across borders; the international disabled youth network project, for example, has been done with me in NZ and my project partner in the UK – a distance of over 10,000 miles all made possible by modern technology (thanks Skype!).
  4. It leads me to have some great traveling opportunities and experiences. For example, I probably never would have travelled to India or Japan (and definitely not with my costs covered, as I did) had I not been involved in volunteer work. There will continue to be opportunities as long as I continue to volunteer, and seeing as I love to travel, that really excites me!
  5. No matter how small the difference, I do feel like I am making a positive difference – to myself as a person, to my local community, to New Zealand and to the world, and as long as I feel that passion and that drive, I will continue to happily volunteer my time!

So, I guess that’s why I do it! Thanks for reading – apologies that this post has been a bit all over the place, but I hope it’s at least given you some food for thought about the work you do in your own community. As frustrating as volunteering can be, it is also a valuable and important part of living in a community.

Keep being young and being you,

Erin