Sunday, January 20, 2013

Why I Volunteer

by Carmen Perez

For six years, I have joined an activity for mothers living in deprived areas, creating Christmas decorations to brighten their homes.  Some live wooden structures built under a bridge. Some live in makeshift tarpaulins hooked up between mausoleums located in a cemetery.  Some are in crowded rooms found in overpopulated cement buildings. 

Each year has come with its special memories. This year's highlight was again joyful.   I arrived at the appointed hour but the first session had already started. This is to show how eager they are to do something to brighten their homes.  One young mother with her two-month old baby was first to sit for the activity I offered.  The children were allowed to come this year.  Previously, the mothers were discouraged to bring their children with them. Workshops were also held for children only.  But with whom could they leave their children behind? A young girl came to sit on my other side. Then, a little boy (around 8 years old) asked me if he could participate. So I made space for him to sit beside me and I helped him.  Soon after the half of the table were full of children.  They were two boys who also wanted to join.  So I asked them to bring stools, sit on the door ledge behind me so I could help them.  It was interesting that the boys were more enthusiastic. The activity involved pasting sequins and glitter on an angel cut-out. In the beginning I gave them pentel pens for them to color but they wanted to use the glitter. Imagine four or five boys (8 to 9 years) working so hard, no fidgeting, no jostling, sharing the glitter, helping one another.  Only at the end, did the little boy beside me spill the glitter on the table. I could easily excuse him. He was making his second angel, another one for his 2 year old brother.  As I packed my things to leave, the little one offered to bring the boxes to the car. At the gate, they all said their good-byes, some hugging, some making "Mano"(custom of pressing the hand against the elder's forehead and some kissing my arm. If I took into consideration, the preparation time (photocopying, putting materials and tools together), the travel time, the 3 hour-activity, the minimal expense of materials (scraps from previous workshops), I could not compress all these to gauge and measure the touching recompense I received in return. 

In giving and not expecting nor anticipating anything in return, one is rewarded, often times instantaneously.  It may not be from the person one had intended a gift  nor for whom one has done a good deed.  It is usually brought forth from within, a verve of feeling, an inner source or surely grace from God. This is why I volunteer.