The nonprofit sector has a way of romanticizing its volunteers and volunteerism in general. Nonprofit leaders, in their urgency to thank volunteers for their work, often paint volunteerism as the noblest of efforts, the sign of a devoted, admirable bleeding heart. One of my own earlier blog posts followed this mindset, focusing on the blessings that arise from the service of Invictus Institute’s volunteers.
While this common portrayal of volunteerism is not incorrect, it fails to do the more pragmatic benefits from volunteering justice. Beyond simply beefing up one’s resume, volunteering can amplify (and even give birth to) valuable skills that are sure to prove useful in one’s professional and personal life. Below are the accounts of two long-time volunteers for Invictus Institute who can attest to such an assurance: Caitlyn Meadows, and Andy Chapman.
Caitlyn, who was also featured in my previous volunteer-centric blog post, has tutored numerous Bangladeshi girls since October 2016. Though the prospect of assisting children was a major draw, Caitlyn was also attracted by the opportunity to hone her future craft. “I am planning on being teacher and figured this opportunity would give me great experience with teaching,” she recalls.
She has certainly had plenty of practice. Every Wednesday evening she spends “an hour and a half to two hours,” tutoring her group of girls; prior to each session, she devotes another hour and a half to lesson planning. Her lessons tend to focus on chemistry, and she makes it a point to ask many questions to keep the students involved.
“I have always loved teaching,” she professes, “and being able to share knowledge with others and tutoring has helped me improve my teaching skills.” Serving as a tutor has also proven to be a refiner’s fire for two more abstract proficiencies – patience and creativity. While teaching anyone demands a considerable amount of patience, teaching the Bangladeshi girls calls for an extra dose. “You often have to repeat yourself, especially when there is a difference in language,” she admits.
The unavoidable language barrier is where creativity comes in. Caitlyn describes herself as a not-so creative person, but that has not stopped her from fostering the skill to bolster her teaching. “I have to be able to come up with new ways to explain things or answer questions if they don’t understand my original answer. I also try to make each lesson as interesting as possible and I have had to be very creative in how I do that.”
All of her hard work has paid off “in many alternate situations,” she explains. Within her paid work in child care, for instance, her enhanced creativity and patience have made watching over children not only more manageable, but more enjoyable. “Tutoring with Invictus Institute has helped me become a well rounded individual and I really hope to improve in all aspects of my life, especially learning how to become a better teacher.”
Three years ago, Andy first learned about the volunteering opportunities available at Invictus Institute through a friend on Facebook. Today, he continues to meet with students in Uganda on a weekly basis “to teach English and have fun.”
The fun, along with the chance to make new friends, are some of the things he enjoys most about volunteering. But as with Caitlyn, he is also grateful for the chance to strengthen not only his presentation skills, but his levels of empathy and reliability. As he puts it, “It’s more about forming a bond with a student than simply teaching English.”
As further evidence of how practical and worthwhile volunteering can be, I can verify that this has been my exact experience with Invictus Institute. Since signing on in September 2016, my writing, which was already decent, has definitely improved. As for new skills, my internship has allowed me my first-ever training with both WordPress and Twitter, two resources that are sure to be handy in our increasingly digital world. In short, volunteerism, both with Invictus Institute and otherwise, has a multitude of benefits to offer, not just the warm fuzzies.