My volunteering story
My volunteering story is a long one. I’ve been a volunteer, coordinated volunteers, „screened“ volunteers, recruited volunteers etc. I started volunteering and helping out in sport competitions (that’s the obvious route if your father is a coach in a club) when I was about 7-8 years old. Then my „volunteering career“ hit a wall because I actually had to compete at the above mentioned competitions and didn’t have time to help out that much. But there was still the student board and other events in my school to satisfy my hunger for some active leisure activities.
By the time I was old enough to take part in the senior events, I started helping out more and more with the children competitions. I’ve done every imaginable position: starting from scoreboard operators, refereeing, results, announcing with a microphone etc. After a couple of years, I was running the technical side of the competitions (which also meant getting paid for the work) and being in the organizing team. The real push to make this my job came from volunteering at the World Cup in Tallinn in 2008. At that moment I was just the „paper delivery girl“, but I loved the environment and seeing the backstage of a major sport event. This small little role snowballed in the following years and ten years later I was working in my sport federation and being the head organizer of the 2016th edition of the World Cup in Tallinn. My employment grew out of my volunteering and I would strongly advise to start volunteering in the field before you commit yourself to a full time career in a field.
It’s hard to describe how important volunteering is to me. It has opened countless doors and most importantly introduced me to amazing people all around the world. Nothing can beat those conversations around the dinner table with a Singaporean and a Puerto Ricon about Estonian “Tujurikkuja”. I can say that I have friends in 90% of the countries of the world and always a free sofa to sleep when in need. My world has grown so much with each experience and it has shaped me as a person and the best part that I’m not done shaping myself and there are countless experiences to get!
Volunteering forces you to get out of your comfort zone, learn something every day, rely on other people, but most of all it gives you confidence about yourself and your abilities. Yes, you will find a way to explain that non English speaking taxi driver in China where you need to go or find summer shorts in the dead of winter in a small Norwegian town. After these experiences you’ll have the strength and self-belief to handle any curveball that life will throw at you (and there will be many). It will also help you to say „Yes“ to more opportunities and take risks, because you know that you can handle anything.
I feel it is my duty to also warn you about the side effects of volunteering. First of all, it’s highly addictive and a couple of weeks after getting back from an experience in abroad, you’ll be already planning the next trip. And yes, it takes many to go and volunteer abroad and you must use your limited vacation days for that, but it’s also the most rewarding thing you could do. You’ll help organize something amazing and you’ll also work for a great cause. And you get to choose yourself what your passionate about! My recommendation would be to just start, just go out there (nowadays it would be Google) and find out how you could contribute to make this world a better place.
You know this classical question: “What job would you have if I wouldn’t have to work for money?” My answer would be volunteer.
Laura-Maria Tildla, Volunteer in Denmar, september 2016. Laura-Maria's sending organisation is INVOLVED mtü - Estonia