It’s time to start thinking if you might volunteer. It’s #VincentianMonth and we’re thinking about our call to serve. Katharine and Jess from the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers were on campus to chat with people who may volunteer a year or more of their lives after college. How do you decide? The Catholic Volunteer Network has a helpful strategy.
Whether you decide to volunteer for a week or three years, committing yourself to service is a big step. Your time spent as a volunteer will have a big impact upon you and upon others. Here are some questions to help you reflect upon the decision to volunteer. The first set of questions will help you reflect on your motivations and expectations. The second set is questions you should ask prospective programs.
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Each person is motivated by their own personal talents, experiences, and goals. It helps to be aware of what is calling you to service, so that you can express this to yourself as well as the programs to which you are applying.
Why do I want to be a volunteer?
Everybody decides to volunteer for different reasons. Are you idealistic? Do you want to deepen your relationship with God? Are you committed to social justice? Do you anticipate personal growth? Do you want to change your life?
What are my expectations?
What do you want to experience during your time as a volunteer? What do you hope to gain? What do you expect from your program and specific placement?
What do I have to offer?
What gifts can you share with others? What are your strengths/weaknesses? What professional skills do you bring?
How do I handle changes?
A volunteer year involves a lot of change. Not only will you be living in a new place with new people, but you won’t be earning a salary. How do you handle change? Have you ever been far from your family and support system? How will you adjust to living simply?
How do I relate with others?
Many volunteers find living in community to be the most difficult part of their volunteer year. How do you interact with others? How do you deal with problems and disagreements? Do you have a sense of humor?
What gives me satisfaction?
At the end of the day, what makes you feel good? What do you find comfort in? What do you like to do with others? How do you spend your time when you’re alone?
Questions to ask the Program
What makes your program unique?
What are your core beliefs or tenets? What is the spirituality of charism of your sponsoring community?
What type of placement does your program offer?
What work will I be doing? Do I need to have previous experience? Will you train me to do things I don’t know how to do? How long is your program? Where will I be serving?
What type of living situation do you have?
Programs offer a variety of different living situations. Will I be living with others like me? Where will I be living? How much stipend will I receive? Can I bring a car?
What kind of support do you provide your volunteers?
Will I be trained? What do if I have a problem at my placement? Will there be retreats? How often will I interact with other volunteers? How do you ensure the safety of your volunteers?
How does the application process work?
How long does the process take? Do I need to be interviewed? What paperwork will I need to complete? What kind of background checks are required?
What are your program’s benefits?
Will my student loans be deferred? Will I receive any training or certification? Are AmeriCorps Awards available? Is health insurance provided?
May I speak with former volunteers?
Volunteers who have gone before you are your best resource in learning about a program. Be sure to ask the program to put you in touch with these volunteers who can share with you their experiences.
What happens when the program is over?
How many people have gone through your program? What types of work have former volunteers gone on to do? How do you keep in touch with former volunteers? Do you offer any support for the transition?