Even though we’re 10 days in and it already feels like NYE was four months ago, technically, it’s still the New Year. I’m sure people have already dropped resolutions or are still thinking about starting them. I don’t generally believe in resolutions but as 2011 was such a pig of a year, I made a list of things I want to do in 2012 and so far… kind of good. Today’s post is going to focus on one of my “resolutions” and try to encourage you to maybe follow through with one of yours.
I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought I was a decent human being – maybe not entirely good but certainly not bad. I also contemplated charity a lot. I donate to charity every month and when I was at uni I used to buy sandwiches for the homeless people on my way to my part time job and when I used to smoke (shock horror! I’ve given up now) if a homeless man asked for a cigarette I would give him the rest of my pack. All things I thought were “giving back” until I grew up and realised that throwing money at a problem when you have time to spare is just a bit… well it’s lazy.
So I knew I wanted to volunteer. I knew I wanted to help. Like most people, I wanted to do something but the excuses just started rolling in: “I’m tired after work”, “I have so much house work to do it’s like having two jobs”, “but what can I REALLY do?”
After a lot of missed opportunities and many, many excuses, I found a charity that was right for me.
Late 2010 saw the opening of Ministry of Stories. Based on the 826 Project, the Ministry of Stories (or MoS) helps local children learn to enjoy reading and writing by providing a safe, imaginative and supportive environment where they can express themselves and their ideas. With the theory that you learn to read through writing, MoS have managed to help thousands of children gain the confidence needed to try.
Not only do they have this magical organisation that helps children but also they have a wonderful shop that sells goods for monsters – human snot, cubed earwax, tinned fear, you name it – and all proceeds go to help the children.
When I heard of MoS I realised that this was the charity for me. I have a Masters in Creative Writing, I had just finished at Apple and I wanted to give children the encouragement I didn’t get growing up.
So in January 2011 I started volunteering and though I haven’t always been able to commit as much time as I’ve wanted to I’m still involved and want to do even more in 2012.
The great thing about MoS is that you don’t have to be a writer or a teacher to help the children and if writing’s not your thing anyway then you can always choose to take a shift in the shop or do some admin or some social media or even illustrate one of the children’s stories.
For me, this was the charity I wanted to help and a task I could do without fear or questioning. And if it has people like Nick Hornby, Joe Dunthorne, Laura Dockrill and David Nicholls putting a foot forward to help let alone donors such as Colin Firth and Emma Thompson… how can you really argue?
If you live in or near London I would recommend visiting even if it’s just to see the Monster Supplies store. If you have time to volunteer, I would encourage trying Ministry of Stories. If you’re looking for a charity to donate to then this might be the one.
But my point still stands. This was the right charity for me. I believe in what they do and I have a connection to their work. It’s important that you find the right charity for you. After volunteering I never walk away thinking, “well that’s my good deed done for the day/week/month”, I walk away thinking “I really enjoyed that. John’s story was really interesting and we managed to write five pages together! And I heard a really funny story in the shop.” I learn something every time I’m there and I never think about my time vs money (as some people do). It’s just a project I want to be part of.
Why not try to find a charity that you believe in? A charity that will make you feel like you’ve achieved something or that will make you feel happy. There’s no point volunteering if you resent the loss of your time or don’t enjoy it so take some time, do your research and believe me, you won’t see it as volunteering, you’ll see it as a highlight in your day.
What charities do you volunteer with or have considered volunteering for?