Advocacy Action-Getting Into Volunteering

By Dom Roberti

Advocacy Action—Getting Into Volunteering

Here's how you can find an organization that fits you

By Dom Roberti

The surgery to remove my prostate cancer in 1993 seemed successful. So, when the cancer began to come back in 2001, I was devastated, as was my wife, Carole. Our first glimmer of hope came from The Wellness Community of Philadelphia (TWCP), which helps people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a program of emotional support, education and hope. We attended weekly support groups, learned to meditate and changed our diets. We are now healthier—cancer aside—in body, mind and spirit than we were before the cancer.

Carole and I both decided to volunteer for TWCP because we wanted to do something to help others in similar circumstances. Carole answers the phone and volunteers as a receptionist one morning a week. Once a month, I tell my story before a group of newcomers at an introductory session during which cancer survivors and clinical staff provide information about TWCP’s programs and services.

Volunteering for a cancer support group or advocacy organization can be richly fulfilling. Through our own experience with cancer, Carole and I are able to offer hope to people who are as frightened and distressed as we were not so long ago. But deciding to volunteer requires some thought and planning to find a role and organization that suits you. Here are some tips to make your experience a good one:

1. Make a commitment. Volunteering will take some time and effort, so it cannot be left to a casual decision. Make a firm agreement with yourself about what, when and how you will do it.

2. Choose an organization you believe in. It’s great to work in a place where you feel that you are contributing to a worthwhile effort. You will find that the psychic income more than makes up for the lack of monetary compensation.

3. Consider your skills and inclinations. If you thoroughly enjoy the work you ordinarily do (or used to do), look for an opportunity to use those same skills as a volunteer. On the other hand, the opportunity to experience something new, perhaps something you never had a chance to do before, can be refreshing.

4. Be flexible. To get the best match you can, be willing to experiment with something less than ideal. Welcome the opportunity to stretch yourself a little with new challenges. The organization will appreciate your willingness to adapt to their needs rather than focusing on your own.

5. Build in regularity. If you can, set a regular schedule for yourself. If you know you will be going in every Thursday morning, for example, volunteering will feel more like a regular job and you will be less likely to put it off when you’re not in the mood.

6. Expand your horizons.
Volunteering can bring you into contact with all kinds of people with all types of backgrounds and experiences. Listen to their stories and share your own. Your world will become larger and more interesting.

7. Develop your altruism. Reflect on your motives and include an intention to help others. Becoming less self-centered and more altruistic will bring greater satisfaction in your work and in your daily life. 

Dom Roberti is a retired college chemistry professor who lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Carole, a medical transcriptionist.


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