By Tornike Chargeishvili, Generations For Peace volunteer and Pioneer Facilitator from Georgia
Sometimes I say that I was born to be a volunteer. I started volunteering as far back as I can remember, following my inner call to action, and I have volunteered for many social activities and organisations, both on a local and on international level. Volunteering brings me so much fulfillment and I am proud to be a volunteer.
Starting from very beginning of our lives we are faced with increasing responsibilities; some might be chosen by us and others are preconditioned by society or the culture we live in. With that said, it is important to maintain a balance if you choose to volunteer, otherwise you might have to give up one or more of your commitments.
My experience at Generations For Peace:
Let me take you on a short personal journey.
I joined Generations For Peace (GFP) about five years ago when I participated in its international camp in Sochi, Russia. This exciting journey has led me on the path of peacebuilding with my GFP family, from being a Delegate to a Pioneer, learning and growing as I go.
Volunteering with GFP gives me a lot of joy and a sense of purpose because I am helping to make change in my own community. I feel like I am part of history when I implement peace-building programmes with GFP. There is nothing quite as important as strengthening your community, leading change and being a part of a legacy for generations to come. I am proud that I volunteer. In fact, you cannot be paid to do this; it is something you do because it comes from your heart.
My volunteering experience with GFP has given me an opportunity to travel to different countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central and Asia) where I have met other amazing volunteers, delivered trainings and experienced different cultures. I have witnessed how small groups of passionate people can work together to achieve positive change.
Reflecting on my experience and talking to other volunteers I have realised that it is not easy to be a GFP volunteer. To start with, it requires lots of time, energy and commitment. Why? Because GFP wants to create real change in a volunteer’s local community, and they want that change to last. To do this, we engage members of the community in the design of the programmes as well as the implementation and monitoring stages. We also involve the entire community when assessing the impact of these programmes. It is very important that the programme is useful and relevant to the community.
The balancing act:
Volunteers should be able to envision a shared future based on community needs, and the steps needed to achieve it. They need to find the right kind of volunteers so they can pass on the knowledge and skills they have learned. Being a GFP volunteer is not easy, which is why it is something to be proud of.
Trust between volunteers is also crucial because we need to help each other out from time to time. Everyone is in the same boat, trying to find the balance in their lives. Without trust, the sustainability of our collective efforts is severely compromised.
Whenever I speak about volunteering to my friends often say: “OK, it’s clear how much satisfaction it gives you, but at what cost? What does it take from you?” First and foremost: time. Even with all the passion and commitment a volunteer has, long-term activities require a huge personal investment in terms of time and energy. That has to be one of the biggest challenges. I am absolutely sure that at one point every volunteer has reflected on the balance between volunteering and their personal lives.
So, how can this be managed? My answer to this is – prioritising. Identifying life responsibilities and prioritising them can be very helpful as it encourages you to choose volunteer opportunities that are best suited to your interests so you can plan your time efficiently. Moreover, it is important to remember that finding a balance in your life requires an awareness of what is important as well as the ability to adapt in response to changing circumstances.
I have found advocacy to be a useful tool when dealing with the challenge of balancing priorities. If you are able to advocate the importance of volunteering then expectations from those around you may be more favourable. As GFP volunteers you have advocacy skills, so why not invite your friends, family members, employers and co-workers to take part in volunteering? It can help them better understand your work and it might encourage them to support your future efforts.
When you exemplify true passion and promote the work and results you achieve, it is easier for others to understand why volunteering takes up so much of your time. I personally remember how advocating, sharing my workload, proper planning and trust from other volunteers has helped me over the years. My Mum even volunteered to help out when I was not able to leave my workplace early! Being able to rely on my fellow volunteers saves time and has helped me make time for my personal life too.
Recognition is a very motivating factor when it comes to volunteering. One of the most memorable days of my life was in 2014 when I was awarded the ‘Samsung Generations For Peace Award’ for quality programmes in Georgia. It always surprises a volunteer when they are recognised for their work, and it is a very humbling experience. I was elated that my work had been recognised, and that the time and energy invested in my peace-building programmes was making a difference. I remember being congratulated by friends, other volunteers and guests at the event – I was overwhelmed with joy. At that moment, I promised myself I would do even more in the future.
On a final note, I am always reminded of the ancient Chinese symbol of Yin and Yang when thinking about balance. Our lives should not consist solely of volunteering nor life responsibilities, instead they should be equal and compliment one other. Life responsibilities help us become successful volunteers as they teach us how to reach out, understand and support others. Likewise, without volunteering we would probably feel less fulfilled or inspired.
I choose to carry out both my life responsibilities and volunteer commitments. Today, I urge you to find a way you can do both – you will see how much richer your life will become.
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