When I moved to Chicago in May 2001, I was just out of college. I completed my master’s and decided not to continue my studies, which at the time were just an excuse to gain time and figure out my life plan. Fast-forward eight years later, and I can’t believe all the places and things I have done. I worked for two multinational corporations, visited seven countries on three different continents and held positions of power and responsibility. But beyond all the ups and downs, the heartbreaks, the lessons and unforgettable moments, what I have enjoyed more than anything is my volunteer work!
In my eight years in Chicago I have volunteer or otherwise helped raise funds for foundations that do amazing work for our community, from organizations like the ASPCA to organizations that have no real specialization but instead cover the vast geographical area of human needs, such as One Brick and Chicago Cares. I have even trained my dog to volunteer with me. He is an amazing therapy dog and a great companion!
During my plentiful volunteer work in the Chicago community, what I found most inspiring is the number of people who share their love and passion for their community. People who come from different parts of the country, from different religious denominations and political views, yet all share a yearning to make this world a better place.
One of my favorite stories is one of a dear friend who decided to volunteer when she witnessed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She told me that when she was looking at the scenes on TV of the people who were left stranded in the flooded city, she was changed forever. She told herself that she needed to do something to help. She was one of the people who took her car and drove all the way down to New Orleans to help out in any capacity she could. I can still see the fruits of her labor when I walk into her house and I am greeted by her two mutts, both rescued from abandon homes after the Katrina.
These are the stories that make me realize that there is something very powerful that unites us and compels us to act. The more I volunteer my time, the more stories like this I hear, the more I’m convinced that there is more love in the world that we realize.
After many years of spreading myself too thin, of been involved with all sort of volunteer work, from AIDS prevention to animal welfare, I realized that what motivates one to stand up and try to make a difference is when something in your heart is moved and changed forever.
This year is my year of change, and I wanted to find an organization that I could dedicate my time and consolidate my efforts. I thought I would never been able to find it because of my vast interests. But after contemplating intensively aboutmy lifestyle, my personal convictions and the values and mission of different organizations that have been an inspiration for me, I decided that the Red Cross was the place for me.
There are many things I could do to help the world, but being there in the moment of crisis is something I’ve been trained by the University of Life to do, and to do well. I have this cool persona that shows up every time there is an emergency and, like my friend, I was also moved by the natural disasters that have afflicted the world in these past few years. Natural disasters like the Earthquakes in Pakistan and China.
Today I am more committed than ever to the Red Cross. Here I’ve found amazing friends, amazing people with hearts of gold who are there at anytime, any day when they are called to help.
One of the most amazing things that happens when you are surrounded by amazing people like these is how your life is changed. When you listen to their stories, to their passions and their dreams, they all become a part of you in a way, and they all help you write your own story.
So it is not only extending your hands to help others that will make change. The one who is helped and changed most by volunteering is you.