Volunteer programs need a little assistance

By By Tristan Bennett

By Tristan Bennett

Not too long ago, I tried to get involved with a volunteer program at the U, and it was a totally fruitless endeavor.

I went online to see what volunteer programs existed at the U. I began by logging onto the U’s website and searching out the various opportunities that existed. I eventually found a questionnaire that was designed to find what programs best suited my availability and my skills.

After finishing the survey — checking a number of things that I found interesting and thought that I might be good at — I came to a conclusion: The only programs on this campus that actually need help are those that involve using Spanish as a second language.

There was one program that called me back after I filled out the all-important survey. It was a mentor program in which we would go to elementary schools in the area to participate in activities with the children and teach them various skills. After attending several meetings spanning the course of two semesters on what it was we would be doing with these elementary age children, and being told that we would be set up with someone, no one ever called me back and I eventually stopped attending the meetings. This was a total waste of my time. I helped no one.

My search for worthwhile voluntary programs did not stop there. I used a contact from a friend to try to get involved with a program that would have me play sports with developmentally disabled children in order to teach them muscle control and social skills. After working as a staff member in a group home for the developmentally disabled for more than a year, I figured maybe this program would be one that I would be sufficiently “qualified” for.

I left a message and never heard anything back.

If there are so many causes that need people to help, why does it seem I need a degree to participate in some, or to have lived in Costa Rica for half of my life for the others?

The message “people need to give more and take less” is inconsistent when those who are willing to give are turned away.

Voluntary service should be about people willing to help, and service programs accepting that help when offered.

Maybe I am “behind the times,” or maybe I am not the asset to these programs I seem to have thought myself to be. One thing is for sure, though: When I “apply” for such programs in the future, it will not be on this campus until the U is willing to take a long, hard look at its service programs and incorporate all those willing to lend a helping hand.

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