The Value of Volunteering: Personal Gains

By Crista Mohammed

Crista Mohammed (1)

In my first installment on the value of volunteering, I described how my career has been fundamentally shaped by volunteering. In this article, I share how volunteering has helped me grow as a person. Of course it is nigh impossible to dissect the professional impacts from the personal. In so far as you have developed, both lives—your professional and personal, benefit. I have tried to distill as best as I could how my twenty odd years of volunteering has informed my personal growth. I dedicate this article to all the fine people who run the IDL SIG and make hard work incredibly fun!

Idle hands

We all know that old adage about idle hands and whose workshop they make. As a youngster, I had absolutely no time to be idle. Volunteering kept me busy. It was fun too. Looking back, volunteering offered a healthful, wholesome type of socialising that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. By selecting how I spent my free time, I made a conscious choice about the company that I wanted to keep. It matters not what your primary goal is for joining a voluntary organisation, you will inevitably be socialised into the norms of that group. If you choose well, then the personal impacts are felt. With the IDL SIG, I wanted to belong to a community of practice—my primary goal. Inevitably, belonging entails subscribing to the ways in which people participate in and create the community. The folks in our SIG are warm, generous and encouraging: Demonstrating warmth, being generous and inspiring others in a virtual community takes a great deal of effort and they do it well. It is impossible to not want to reciprocate that goodwill: I might be falling short, but I know they will forgive me. How do I feel after a meeting? A sense that I have spent my time well with like-minded, kind folks.

Coming to your own

Belonging to a group involves both conforming to the group and carving out a niche for yourself: these are processes with opposing ends. As you learn from the group you become part of them, while shaping a unique you in response to them. You emerge with a new dimension of you. You may be the pragmatist; the dogged, determined one; the sage, totally Zen one. In the IDL SIG we even have the warm, kind, cat-loving one (a shout-out to Jamye Sagan)!

I have yet to figure out which one I am in the IDL SIG—seems like all the great roles are taken! So far, I have been able to create an air of mystique because our meetings are via Adobe Connect and there has been no service to Trinidad and Tobago where I reside. My contributions to the meeting have been typed newsletter reports  and messages in chat. So the group has not heard my voice nor my accent, which will be incredibly foreign to them. Viqui ( the cheery, guitar playing one), our programmes manager and co-manager elect, recently wrote to say that there is now service to my part of the world. I need a new me: My mystique will soon disappear as I start speaking at the meetings! I will no longer be the most intriguing IDLer in the world.

Something larger than you

At school, I loved our annual sport meet, because of the marching. I am certain that I didn’t march well, but there is something to say about belonging to a group, about being part of a larger body - a body that rallies, works, plays in unison with you. Teaming directs your energies to something that is bigger and more significant than just you. It is an amazing feeling to share in successes that you could not have wrought on your own. Similarly it is a relief and comfort to be able to share disappointments.

My IDL SIG triumphs are quarterly guarantees. When IDL: Design for Learning gets published, no matter how humble our offerings, waves of satisfaction wash over me at having served my community. It is a victory made possible with lots of help from friends.

I am reminded by my senior class students that a text is only worth reading or listening to if it is sincere (they are currently mulling over Aristotle’s ethos). I hope that the sincerity with which I have shared my experiences of volunteering shines through. I sincerely hope that you are convinced to volunteer for the IDL SIG and STC! Your professional goals and personal aspirations can be met in our one stop shop. For more information on volunteering opportunities with the IDL SIG please see

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