Notes from a bitch…

The financial markets are in turmoil and the federal bail-out is in question…or at least it was when I started writing this (wince).
Seems like the perfect time for a discussion about volunteering to this bitch!
Step up on soap box…fluff Afro…continue.
For the past five years I have volunteered at local women’s shelters for homeless pregnant teens and new mothers. I teach voter education classes, basic budgeting and women’s health classes. Through the years I have had the honor of witnessing knowledge empower young women to take control of their lives and I have also been confronted with the personal damage done through the anti-knowledge anti-choice agenda.
But one thing that this bitch has also witnessed is the lack of active volunteering to support community organizations and programs that address reproductive justice issues.
Now catch that knee before you hurt someone!
I’m certainly not flying solo in my efforts and that’s not what a bitch is trying to say.
But there are mentor positions unfilled, after school classes in need of tutors…and so forth and so on…in every community across America.
As feminists we must challenge ourselves to be activists online and offline…to lead by example and give some of our time back to our communities.
And hey, there’s a personal benefit too! My understanding of the challenges facing teen mothers has grown through my partnering with them in my classes…the complexity of poverty, the inadequacy of the system, the failure of abstinence-only education, the crisis of sexually transmitted diseases and the lack of funding for programs that could make a real difference are up close and personal issues for me now.
So, if you are already a volunteer in support of feminist causes and organizations in your community then go on with your bad self!
And if you are not donating your time now is a good time to ask yourself why.
Do you think you have to have a Ph.D. in women’s studies to teach a class? Because you don’t…most local shelters already have programs that need support. Or perhaps you don’t like to join groups? That’s okay, because you can always develop your own program, make your own schedule or volunteer with a group that doesn’t require membership! Hell, that’s how I go started.
Or do you think that you’re too busy?
Well, you’re not!
Blink.
Okay, a bitch doesn’t really know how busy you are, but odds are you have a couple of hours a month to spare….right?
Right!
Go forth, get active and donate your time…
…and your money, if you’re one of the blessed few to still have any of that shit left (wink).

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17 Comments

  1. Ann
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    This is such an important reminder. Thank you!

  2. puckalish
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    yes… and i hope that the dearth of comments here are because folks are running out to find their local volunteering opportunities.

  3. Trouble
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    We had a volunteer fair at my uni this week.
    I obviously can’t speak for anyone else, but I feel overwhelmed at the need out there, and end up paralyzed. If I volunteer with the Elizabeth Fry Society, that means I can’t volunteer with Feed Nova Scotia, and volunteering with either one takes away time from my thesis, and… and… and…
    I am a Queen of Excuse Making.
    I do have hours every month – like this hour I’m spending right now.

  4. Jessica
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Yes, thank you for this!
    And puck, I’m finding more and more that our most important posts often have few comments. I asked a group of students about this once (also readers of feministing), and they told me that when they read something really great they feel like nothing else needs to be said. I disagree, of course. ;)
    If anyone wants to talk about their volunteer experience in this thread, I’d certainly welcome it… These days I try to volunteer my time by doing blogging and speaking related stuff for local orgs, but I was a rape crisis counselor back in the day and though it was intensely difficult emotionally, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

  5. sylvie
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    I have been thinking about doing something like this, and have not been able to find any useful places to do so. I don’t want to start my own organization, I’d like to work within an existing one. I am within a couple months of finishing my PhD, and have a lot of teaching experience – in particular, I teach some basic critical reasoning classes that could be modified to be really useful, I think. I want to develop a section specifically about stuff like credit card debt – understanding the long-term effects of using one’s credit card to get through bad months, or signing up for particular rates. General numeracy skills and comfort, in other words.
    How do I find volunteer opportunities for this? I tried googling for things in my area and I found surprising little. I am not sure how to make the first step. I live in claremont, CA (out in the inland empire) – any leads?

  6. MzBitca
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    Sylvie,
    I would advise calling local homeless shelters, DV shelters etc and offer to lead groups on things. I worked at a DV shelter and we often had nursing students come in to talk about exercise or healthy eating. I occasionaly do talks about drug and alcohol abuse at local shelters and am talking to female students heading to college about self-esteem and body issues partnered with a community college. The more people you talk to and let them know your skills and knowledge the more opportunities will arise. Most non-profits are so busy they don’t have time to go volunteer hunting or to attempt to expand their program. It is much easier when the help offers without them searching it out.

  7. maggie1
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    ok

  8. saira
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    @ Sylvie: after-school programs might also appreciate those kinds of classes. I work at a nonprofit which provides after school tutoring/mentoring/advocacy/enrichment/healthcare services to kids in DC, and I know we’re always trying to find classes that would be relevant and interesting to our high school kids (and their parents, but I imagine most after school programs don’t have that aspect!)

  9. laurylen
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I work with two young Somalian women on their English (usually through their homework) once a week. I got connected with them through a colleague, who is working in the New American (mostly Sudanese and Somali) community in town. In other words, a friend of a friend asked me to tutor some young women who cannot work with an adult male. It took some time in the community to find this type of opportunity, but I’m glad to have it.
    Oh, and I’ve begun escorting young women at a local women’s health clinic that has some (stupid ***ing) protestors outside. Again this opportunity came to me via a friend of a friend, rather than official pipelines.

  10. Token
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the post. I just got in touch with my local women’s center.

  11. lyndorr
    Posted September 29, 2008 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    A survey found more people volunteer in my city than any other city surveyed in Canada. I wonder if there’s something about some cities that make them have more volunteering than others. What’s the difference? I do know my city has a website that makes it easy to see information on many volunteer opportunities in the city and let the organization know you’re interested.
    Wednesday I start training at the women’s shelter. In winter I’ll be doing public education in high schools. I’m pretty excited about that. Currently (for a uni class!) I’m volunteering at a “high school” with 16 students working independently towards getting their high school diplomas. For various reasons, they can’t or won’t go to a regular high school.

  12. Kathryn
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    I volunteer by writing about choice issues for a local organization, and I volunteer at planned parenthood, just doing whatever is needed.
    I have a pretty goofy schedule, so it’s hard to say “i can be there to help at x time on x day”, and when that happens, often an organization will send me some documents to proof by a certain date or some info to turn into a press release.
    I find volunteering very rewarding. It makes it possible for me to keep a foot in different kinds of activism that i’m really passionate about. I also meet a lot of cool people that i have a lot in common with.

  13. Mace Kelly
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Websites like volunteermatch.org are excellent for finding intresting volunteer positions. I live in Philadelphia and volunteer with a Action Aids. There is a lot of outreach going on in the Aids activist community that’s geared towards women living with HIV/AIDS. Our agency, and most others, do a ton of work with support and education.
    My current assingment as an Action Aids Buddy volunteer is to hang out with a person living with HIV/AIDS. All Buddy volunteers act as liasons between client and case manager and we get to jump in on additional things, like escorting clients to doctors appointments, agency mailings, and the occasional baby sitting job.
    Friends and community fairs are probably the best place to find volunteer oppurtunities. Talking to someone who is a current volunteer gives you a better idea of what to expect.

  14. Posted September 30, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I completely agree, but I’ll share a problem I’ve had. I’ve contacted the battered women’s shelter here 3 times. Have they called me back? Nope.
    That seems to be a common theme where I am.
    Another local place does education for teen moms. They someone to organize their supply closet, but I can’t bring my kids with me. Because we keep an odd schedule, I have to guard the hours when we have childcare pretty heavily. And of course the opportunity’s not available in the evenings when my partner could keep the kids.
    It’s frustrating feeling that you’re making the effort, but nothing’s coming of it. I feel we’re stuck with really basic stuff like donating to the food pantry, which is needed, but still I’d like to do more.

  15. maggie
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    awesome post…
    @everyone / anyone interested:
    it’s become a lot easier to take initiative in planning a local event in your community or university on behalf of national organizations whose causes you believe in. a lot of non-profits have created “event-in-a-box” programs through which anyone interested can request a mailing be sent to them containing all the materials necessary to hold a local event + guidelines on how to attract speakers, local press, and higher turnout.
    just google national organizations or general causes that you believe in and see what kind of programs they have launched to enable grassroots volunteering. one example is SAFER’s (Students Active for Ending Rape) “Organize a Fundraiser for SAFER” option on their website @ http://www.safercampus.org/involved.php

  16. doppleganger
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I’m all jazzed someone brought this up! I’ve been volunteering at least 25 hours a week for the Obama campaign. I organize canvassing in my community (yes I just said community organizer) and I have to call people to ask them to volunteer. We are actually pretty low on volunteers right now. People want to have political bitch sessions with me but when I ask them to come volunteer they give me some lame excuss why their job is stressing them out. Let me tell you that my job makes me insane and volunteering is the sanity I need. Of all our talk about Palin and how we don’t need McCain in office, few people want to get out and do what needs to be done for Barack! That’s how campaigns are won. Volunteers not yard signs! =D

  17. doppleganger
    Posted September 30, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    So know that I got my Volunteers for Obama out I do have concerns about connecting people who want to volunteer with volunteer opportunities. (People often want the opportunities to come to them. Something I’m guilty of as well.) After the election I really want to get involved with something I’m passionate about but I am concerned I won’t have the skills they need. Etc, etc, etc. They may seem like hold you back excusses but they are lagit concerns. Being a rape crisis counclor could be really amazing! And totally emotionally draining and scary. Knowing what to expect and preparing yourself is an important move before you go diving in. (So I’m going back and forth with myself here.)
    To the point (if I can) I believe that volunteering is the way social change happens. And it is rewarding ten fold. (If I can figure out what direction to go in first. =)

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