By Sarah Brill
Volunteering is one of the most pure forms of giving back to a community. Whether it be through community service or walking your neighbor’s dog without pay, volunteering has always been about helping people in your community. Over time, however, volunteering has grown into a chore, something done out of duty rather than initiative. People nowadays say in a reluctant tone, “I still have three more hours of community service left,” or, “Yes, my graduate school requires volunteering.” Over time, I feel that the devotion people once had to volunteering has slowly deteriorated. But what do I know? Am I not also volunteering for hours?
I’ll be honest, it definitely started that way. I started my volunteering journey in 10th grade at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where I walked in thinking to myself, “all right: only 16 hours to go.” My attitude continued this way, until one day my volunteer coordinator allowed me to visit rooms. Over the next two years I would play video games with teens, hold NICU babies, and play dolls with toddlers. This may not seem like too much of a life-changing opportunity, and to be quite honest it wasn’t–until I walked into a child’s room and she said, “Oh, thank God you are not a doctor!” Those few short words changed my perspective on volunteering at a hospital. Up until that point, I was only looking at volunteering through one perspective: mine. You hardly notice the impact you are making until someone on the receiving end points it out to you. When I graduated from high school and moved to New York, I desperately applied to as many hospitals in the city as I could so that I could continue my journey. Today I volunteer at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital and, like Children’s Colorado, I feel that I am making an impact on the child’s life and they, in turn, are making an impact on mine.
Volunteering at a hospital is one of the most intense volunteer positions someone can apply for. Someone who goes into volunteering at a hospital “for hours” will not receive the satisfaction that someone who goes into volunteering for pure kindness will have, and this attitude will have a negative impact on the children. Multiple people have come up to me throughout the years, whether it be in Colorado or in New York, and have inquired about the application and interview process in children’s hospitals. Most of the time, I’m willing to give information and even some interview tips. Then, sometimes, there is a person who says, “I would like to volunteer at a children’s hospital because it’s good exposure,” or, “I need the hours,” or, “it’s a great hospital to get a recommendation from.” To those people who want to do it “for the hours”: please do not volunteer at a children’s hospital. The children need a volunteer who is motivated, compassionate, and open-hearted. They do not need someone who is in it for the requirements.
Volunteering is much more than a signed paper approving your hours. At the end of the day, you have impacted people’s lives, so do it because it is the right thing to do and not because you have to.