This recession sucks, and with no clear end in sight, it's time for some drastic actions. Come volunteer. Even if you only volunteer for one week in your entire 60 or so years on this planet, then that's enough. It could be the best adventure of your life. In Haiti where I work, most of the volunteers arrive and lose weight, get a suntan, meet hundreds of new friends, help save lives and some even fall in love. My intent is to get everyone out of therapy and out helping others. You soon forget about your own mind-pounding problems and realize that yours aren't so bad after all. Some of my favorite volunteers helping in Katrina, Sri Lanka and Haiti were obsessive-compulsive disorder patients who were forever cleaning up the refugee camps and hospitals. They were incredible.
My name is Alison Thompson and I don't have a lot of huge skills, but I've learned that all the little ones add up. These natural and man-made disasters are growing way too humongous for the NGO aid groups and governments to manage alone. They need our help.
There is a place for the everyday volunteer, yes, mums, dads, writers, radio hosts, film producers, bankers, billionaires, students , lawyers, programmers and even strippers, all get in and have a go. I was recently a panelist at the United Nations showing of The Third Wave feature, and I remember stating, 'It's all about common sense, not a master's degree in Disaster Management.' This was not echoed by other members of the panel. The one job we go to college for shouldn't define who we are for the rest of our lives. It doesn't take many skills to give out water and give someone a hug.
On Sept 11th, The World Trade Center towers in NYC collapsed and I rollerbladed 8 miles downtown and became an independent volunteer working alongside a bunch of other volunteers. I stayed at ground zero for 5 days helping collect bodies, gave out water and washed soot from firemen's eyes. During those days, Fema (google them) kept visiting our little makeshift first aid station trying to shut us down. They would declare it was time for the government professionals to take over, but on their 3rd visit to us something very unique happened. The Fema agent gave us his usual spiel about sending the volunteers out of ground zero, but then he covered his badge and proclaimed, "please stay, we really need your help." This one sentence, less than a Twitter feed, helped define the next ten years of my life as I set out on volunteer adventures all over the world. Why? Because I knew I was needed even when the large aid groups got on TV told me I wasn't.
Volunteering doesn't have to be overseas. Our country is struggling with so many people out of work. Its time to ask, 'how can I help?' One way is you can google it. There will be hundreds of organizations waiting for your help with issues ranging from the environment, protecting animals, mentoring kids without parents, to whatever interests that rock you.
Are you interested in saving the Stagnicola bonnevillensis, commonly known as the fat whorled pondsnail from Utah, but no one else is? Then start a group.
That is why I wrote my book, The Third Wave: A Volunteer Story, to reveal to you that you are needed and to 'gift' you a road map on how to do it. Volunteering is not always easy and I make mistakes along the way, but it's not rocket science. When I'm out there doing it, I feel really happy. Join me.