Doing something does make a difference

This saying is exactly what prompted me to engage in volunteer work. My story began two years ago, when I visited a home for mentally challenged people for a reporting assignment. The occupants at the home were preparing for an art and handwork exhibition and that was supposed to be the angle to be covered for my story.

That was the first time I had stepped into any place that did similar work and to be honest I was quite surprised. I can’t remember what I was expecting, but I remember feeling quite overwhelmed for the first few minutes. The home housed mentally challenged males and when I walked in, they were working hard on their projects.

What got to me most when I saw their projects was that even though I’m seen as a mentally balanced person, I lack the ability to be creative, especially when it comes to handwork. That day, I spent about an hour speaking to the occupants and their helpers who were committed to make the lives of those in the Home better; their strength, compassion and commitment was truly inspiring.

This is just one account of disadvantaged people and their lifestyles. A daily review of the papers, a quick glance at the local and international news and superficial attention given to the radio will be enough to learn of countless number of heart wrenching stories around the world. How many of us hear of these stories and think to ourselves how pitiful the human race has become, how low the species of mankind has been reduced to? But do we actually ever do anything about that initial pang of guilt, of sorrow, of conviction?

Don’t we just move on to sunnier, happier moments in our own lives and leave these stories for times when we need topics to discuss at tea time or at a party? I know many of us do.

There is so much to do but only a few of us make the effort to do anything. Why is that? How can we see the change we want to see if we go on about our daily work expecting someone else to do something about it? Why can’t you be that someone? That someone is not a super human: that someone is an average human being with work and family and a life that has its own set of troubles. But the only difference is that they take time out from their busy schedules to give back to society and try making it something better.

Volunteer work does not have to always be about belonging to a big movement and about doing big things. It can be as simple as helping an elderly person cross the road, lending a helping hand to your classmate with her homework or speaking up for someone who is shy and backward.

As a member of STITCH I have been able to chip in and do my part for my society, and believe that my contribution, despite being small in the grand scheme of things, does make a difference.

STITCH is a movement committed to educate, advocate, empower and network for social change through volunteerism and activism in Sri Lanka. For more information please e-mail info@stitchmovement.com or visit www.stitchmovement.com.

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