Once a volunteer…

… always a volunteer.

It’s true. I come from a long line of volunteers. My parents were active community members: participating in such associations as the CWA*, Rural Fire Brigade, School P&F**, Girl Guides to name just a few. It is little wonder then that my siblings and I have followed in their footsteps. The Photographer is a member of his local Fire Brigade, The Beader is active at her boy’s school. The Scientist’s name pops up on committees here and there.

My involvement started when I was in matriculation college: the boarding house where I lived during the week had a social committee of sorts – and I was a member. My first taste of volunteering. Fast forward a few years to my first proper paying job, very nice 5 star hotel. We had an in-house newsletter. Strictly staff only! You guessed it, yours truly was committee member.

Then life and career took over, less volunteering time although still trying to do my bit. I joined Amnesty International and supported a couple of other organisations that I felt could use my Aussie dollars, as I couldn’t really give them any of my time. Some days it felt like there was barely enough for me. Huh. Little did I know.

Then I became a parent. Then I KNEW what it felt like not to have any time. Then my volunteering career really kicked off! We finally settled in Finland after a few years of going back and forth. Mr. 12 started daycare. Daycare had a parents association. Guess who signed up? It was one of the best things I ever did. There was never any question that I wouldn’t sign up! Up until then my social circle had been quite small***. Our day-care organised all sorts of events and parties. We were an international group, so there was always an excuse resason for party. Valentines Day, Easter, Vappu (May Day), Diwali. There was an annual art-show, there were concerts that had to be catered for. I met  wonderful parents who were also passionate about helping out. It makes it so easy when everyone is on the same page. I made some lasting friendships, that have stood the test of time and distance.

Roll on the start of school and not only do I get involved with the class committee ****, I sign up for the school PTA. Not a wise move, as it turns out. I was just too different to the rest of the committee. I started to feel that some of the members were in it for some personal glory or one-upmanship. I thought we were there for the children and the school. Foolish me! Anyway, I’m still a member, just not on the committee anymore. Much happier for it at the end of the day. Plus The Engineer is very happy that I volunteer and even though he acts a bit embarrassed when I’m at the school, I think Mr. 12 is just a little bit proud.

My other volunteering is with a great group of English-speaking men from the IESAF*****. Typical Kanerva story about how I got here… I’d joined up a couple of years ago. Read the monthly newsletter, liked what I read about and even though I didn’t attend any events, promised myself that I would try to get involved. Notice for the AGM arrives in my email. Take a note of the date, time and place. Think to myself, hmm Mr. 12 (well 11 then) has swimming practice that night. Time and place are good, I can to the AGM and then we can get to training after.

I go to the AGM. Slightly surprised that there are not so many people present. Then again, this is Finland so actually I shouldn’t be so surprised. One thing leads to another and before I know it I’ve said yes to replace the auditor; yes to being a committee member; don’t remember saying no to anything (more on that shortly).

So now I’ve been a committee member for a year. I definitely have not set the world on fire with my participation. I set up a LinkedIn page for us, and need to play a more proactive role. I should attend more of the events, although when The Engineer is travelling I really don’t like being out on a school night. The one thing I am proud of and has taken lots of work (much more than I envisioned, I think it will be well worth it in the end) is organised cooking classes in English. In conjunction with the wonderfully named Spoon Mama(s). This is one topic I will definitely be writing about it the future. You can count on it!

Back up the page, I mentioned that I hadn’t said no to anything. That is my big problem with being a volunteer. Yesterday, talking with my counselor T, we were talking about being present for Mr. 12. As a family we’ve had some tough times, with more to come. My time management (mis-management?) and community involvement, while presenting him with positive model to follow, also may have the opposite effect by taking my attention away from him when he needs me the most. T said that I can say no. That I should say no. Mr. 12 will most likely be going to a new school come the autumn. One good thing about the school he will most likely be going to is that they have NO active parents association. While I think this is very sad for the school and the students, the more I reflect on it, the more relieved I am that there will be no extra drain my time. Selfish? Maybe. I just have to remind myself that I don’t have to be part of organising every little thing and that sometimes it’s fine to hand the job to someone else.

* CWA: Country Women’s Association;

**P&F: Parents and Friends;

*** Finland is not the easiest country in the world to move to, and making friends with Finns takes a lot of time and work (that’s a whole blog topic on its own!);

**** The class committee is in charge of organising parties, trips and raising money for the year 6 camp school;

***** International English Speakers Association of Finland:

Wow, so much text here. Thanks for sticking with me all the way to the end.

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