Volunteering: A Very Worthy Cause, a Barbadian Perspective

09 August, 2018

People volunteer for a variety of reasons, but “wanting to help others” is the response most often given when asked for their motives for volunteering. However, they can be disturbed by the notion that they might gain some benefits for themselves, but there is nothing wrong in developing personally through volunteering.

Both young and old alike can benefit from volunteering. The young person can earn academic credit, build a resume, or gather pertinent information to assist in making a career.

Seniors and those who have lost partners may use volunteering to help keep skills alive or to make new friends. Others, because of personal experience with a problem, illness or cause, may volunteer their services.

A number of Barbadian organisations are desperately trying to recruit volunteers, but the response from the public has been poor. On investigating, I have discovered a number of factors that may be responsible for the reluctance demonstrated by some Barbadians, especially the younger people.

  • The perception that volunteering is for the social elite who are not employed and are trying to keep themselves occupied.
  • It is for retired people.
  • The lack of financial reward is a deterrent in these difficult economic times.
  • Meeting the daily commitment of work and family life leaves individuals with little or no spare time to volunteer for extra-curricular duties.
  • Some individuals would not volunteer to assist in certain organizations because they are misinformed about the organisation’s activities.
  • Some individuals expressed concern about confidentiality; having to complete forms giving personal details without knowing where this information would be directed.

Bearing the above misconceptions and issues in mind, organizations must make volunteering more attractive and seek to promote the work they do in a more positive way if they want to attract greater assistance from the public.

The Diabetes Association of Barbados has more than five thousand (5000) members. Fifty (50) of these are volunteers. These volunteers, who are health care professionals and lay persons, form the management committee, participate in outreach programmes and offer counselling services and sessions to educate clients about how to manage their condition and lead a healthier life style. Volunteers also assist at the summer camp, for children with diabetes and help with several other events and activities. There is a sense of satisfaction and pleasure when clients express their gratitude and appreciation for the help and advice offered to them.

Since volunteering as a Registered Nurse with the Diabetes Association, my experiences have been very positive
and pleasant. Staff and other volunteers have been very supportive. I am also encouraged by the response of
clients who genuinely want to change to a healthier lifestyle, and are grateful for my counselling, support and
encouragement.

Although I am a registered nurse, there is always something new to be learnt from my fellow volunteers, and I am often impressed with the wealth of knowledge that lay volunteers have about diabetes, especially the ones who themselves have got the condition.

I feel honoured and humbled each time I help someone ‘get a new lease on life’ after believing that everything was hopeless. I feel a sense of accomplishment to know that I am making a difference no matter how small, especially when one considers the vast numbers of persons who are living with this disease. A report by the International Diabetes Federation states that there are 425 million cases of diabetes worldwide and 36,500 cases in Barbados in 2017.

When you volunteer, you are giving something back to your neighbourhood. You are giving something back to your nation. You are helping someone in distress. That someone may be your family, your friend or it may be a stranger.

No one can predict what would happen in their lives tomorrow. It may be your turn to depend on help from someone. Please, lend a helping hand whenever and wherever you can.

Barbara Brewster RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc, MBE, JP (Retired)