My volunteering experience at Oxford Community Choice Pantry was invaluable. These are 10 hours of service learning that I will never forget. My job was mainly classifying food, carrying food, and communicating with other staff and people who needed help. I interacted with many people, including social workers, the agency director, and clients from all walks of life. If a client needed food, it was my job to gather up the needed items and then carry this bag of food to the client. I felt that the staff and clients appreciated the work that I was doing. Most people were grateful, friendly, and appreciative of any help they were given.
Before I started this volunteering, I wondered if some of the people that I would come into contact with would be rude, lazy, and unconcerned about their appearance. I wondered if some of these people were just trying to use the system and did not care about bettering their life. However, as time went on, I realized that for the most part, this was not true. Most of these people had hit hard times. After volunteering for this agency, I knew the true meaning of most people only being 3 paychecks away from being homeless and out on the street.
I am the type of person who believes that every human being deserves fair treatment. My value and attitudes are non-judgment, empathy, compassion, and humility. I do not think that I am better than anyone. It is important to keep in mind that we do not know anybody’s story until that person tells it to us. For some people, a chronic illness, car accident, job loss, or death of a spouse or family member can change the tide and course of one’s life. That can put people in a bad financial and emotional situation that can be hard to recover from in life.
I expected this experience to open my eyes to the hardships of people and what they go through. Those expectations were met and much more. I was amazed at the number of people who needed help, including college kids who had a bright future ahead of them. So many people are going through challenging times right now, at no fault of their own. The amount of individuals who are suffering financially and mentally seems to be more of a systematic problem and not the result of incompetent people who screwed up in life.
My final impression of people who need help, especially with food, is that we need to do more as a society to help one another. Some people have medical and mental illnesses that are not getting addressed enough. In addition to this, not enough well-paying jobs are available for people. Individuals should not have to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. That just creates more stress and less time for people to spend with their families and to enjoy life.
Volunteering has made me more compassionate to people’s plight. It has also inspired me to think of ways that I can make a difference via advocacy work and hands-on work. Are there laws and policies that need to be changed and revamped that I can become involved with? What letters can I write to local and national politicians that can alert them to needed changes? There are many ways that I can make a difference in this world. Volunteering has motivated me to start thinking of ways that I can begin to take action.
I feel that having a required experiential learning component to this course is an excellent idea. I feel that book knowledge can only go so far. It is when we start interacting with people and doing hands-on work that we can make a difference in making changes that can help society. This requirement can also help people decide if social work and related fields is the career that one really want to pursue in life. It can be a demanding job, but has many rewards, improving people’s lives and giving them hope more than worth it.