Of all the civilians wanting to go volunteer in Haiti right now there are few organization’s where the civilian volunteers can make a tangible difference. For most of us we think the way to offer help is with money and I don’t deny that it does. It’s also easy to donate money because we don’t have to offer our time. Time is arguably the most important thing we have.
I am a big fan of organizations like Doctor’s Without Borders. This particular organization sends volunteer doctors and nurses to provide urgent medical care in countries to victims of war and disaster regardless of race, religion, or politics. What I like about this is that it utilizes people with a unique skillset to offer that skill to people in areas where it is hard to find qualified doctors and nurses. These volunteers also sacrifice their time.
The reason I bring all of this up is because I never felt like a charitable person in the sense that I rarely donate money to organizations. The only time I give money to street beggars is when a beggar pesters me enough that I hand over a small amount of money or buy them a roll of bread so the beggar leaves me alone. I did not donate any money to any organization’s offering support to Haiti. Neither did I for the Tsunami in Southeast Asia years back. I have the money to donate but I don’t get the sense that I am making much of a difference for many reasons.
With my flexibility living a location independent lifestyle I can participate in “voluntourism
” but I have a few times before when I was much younger and have a pretty cynical opinion of it all now. On the other hand I could help at less touristy organization found through idealist
and already did so for three months in Ecuador but the difference I made was pretty marginal. Those are only a few examples as I realize there are tons of other real ways to help people who are less fortunate but those involve dedicating a substantial amount of effort and time. And unfortunately its hardly a guarantee that by doing all of this I will make any real difference (think US Peace Corps for example).
But today I was reminded of how I can offer my unique skill-set to change someone’s life significantly. For some background information I own a Career Consulting business specializing in the creation of resumes, curriculum vitae, cover letters, and mock interviews. My unique skillset is writing professional documents to increase the changes of people landing interviews and jobs. I am doing extremely well with in this business taking on an average of 50+ new clients per month. I can argue that I really do help people but I also the fact is they also pay me very well for the services I offer.
But a former client’s mother sent me an email earlier today.
“I am presently unemployed. Resigned a teaching position to re-locate. Over the summer, husband was seriously injured (freak assault, severe brain injury) and I’ve been caring for him full time. My getting a job is a high stakes issue for us as he is fully disabled now and lost his position.
Sorry for the treatise. Just want you to know the situation. I found I was good at networking and raising money to help my husband’s recovery. I found I knew how to cultivate the many contacts that came from his business circles and turn it into a positive force for Chuck’s benefit and support.
I’m a strong, talented and original woman and I don’t feel like wrestling the words right now into THAT resume. I am impressed with the work you did for my son.
I see myself possibly working my way into running a non-profit or helping to steer a start-up. Autonomy and freedom to make my own best decisions are very important. “
After reading this email I had an “ah-ha” moment. I can help this woman at no cost and make a real different for her family. Even better if down the road she does create her own non-profit organization once she is financially stable. This is not the first time I will write a client’s resume at no cost. I have done it a few times in the past. But her email made allowed me to consciously realize that there is a way I can utilize my unique skillset to change other people’s lives and I am going to put in more effort to make sure I do this more in the future.
How does this relate to you, my reader? I want you to examine what you are good in relation to others. It won’t always be as easy as someone directly asking you to help. But once you understand what you do well you should consciously offer that service to people in need.