Last night I attended a university ceremony for the EVAs, aka the Excellence in Volunteering Awards, organised in recognition of all the hard work people in the university have put into running societies, events, and raising money for charity. The latter category is where I came in, as I have been part of the university RAG committee for the 08/09 season, and got awarded an honour for my efforts. I received an email a couple of weeks ago to say I'd been nominated, I never found out who by, but I'm very grateful! I've never won anything like this before, I suppose because I've never really done anything before that might deserve it. Even though a new committee has been elected now, and I'll be leaving soon, I'd really love to continue volunteering - and not just because everyone tells you to do it for the sake of your CV. Like I said, I've never really done anything like this before, when people told me they ran for a charity/helped out at a charity shop for free/visited old people's homes, I thought it was nice of them, but, didn't feel enthused to give up my own time for it. With RAG, the main aim was to raise money, by any means we could think of, so that we could give it to the various charities we were supporting. We organised a Christmas Ball, a community day (which Desmond Tutu came to - the man is a legend and has the best laugh...ever!) and sometimes just plain, old-fashioned stood in the street with a bucket. Oddly, the latter is the volunteering effort I think I will always remember and feel really good about.
I'll set the scene.
It was a cold Saturday morning in December. I had to race eager, already angry, shoppers to one of the last parking spaces town had to offer. I couldn't wear a proper coat, because I had to wear a bright pink 'Cancer Research' t-shirt, with a bright pink bucket to match (which, by the way, I wasn't allowed to shake...apparently bucket shaking is deemed to be aggressive. who knew?) and follow busy people on their way to overcrowded shops, laden with shopping bags, and ask - even though we had all just been told we were in a recession and people were spending more than they would at any other time of year - for money. But, instead of strongly worded versions of 'go away', they happily parted with their cash - coppers, pounds, sometimes notes. I was surprised to say the least. When we had been there for about 3 hours and were starting to lose feeling in our fingers, a middle aged couple came up to us and gave some money. They began to walk off when the woman approached myself and a fellow collector, she had tears in her eyes and told us we were doing a great job, and that she was currently suffering with cancer herself, and was so grateful that people were trying to help others like her. We didn't know what to say. I felt awful for how much I'd been complaining that I was bored, cold and hungry all morning - none of that mattered any more because we had come face to face with the real reason we were there. And I think after that I would have stayed all day and all night trying to help that woman. So, I guess what I'm saying is that volunteering isn't just something that helps get you a job, or something that only greenpeace hippies do - it can make a difference. And the little award I got just makes me remember that I did...which is particularly useful when you're in the university 'bubble', separated from the real world and wondering what the point is in writing yet another essay!