Friday, March 31, 2006

Life As A Volunteer

For the last ten months, I had been doing volunteer job. It had been quite entertaining and I have learned lots of things. Sometimes, it can be very frustrating, only in the sense that I am not being paid for my efforts. However, that's another story and I am not in the best position to complain. Being a volunteer has taught me many different things, and has given me opportunities to experience things I would probably miss had I opted to just stay home or wander elsewhere. For a newcomer like me, this is best place to learn.

My work in the psychological testing field before was challenging. Everyday was a test of patience and judgment. I’ve encountered varying personalities in the past. My current volunteer job is at the information and referral at a mental health agency. Basically, my tasks include processing voicemail messages and directing them to the appropriate program, attending to walk-in clients needing services, processing referrals from other agencies, contacting possible clients on the phone, and sometimes, answering calls at the referral line.

It’s a LOT of work, I only realized it now. I used to be so confused on my first months here. And most of the process and system is fairly new to me, and I needed a lot of time adjusting to it. Insurances, self-pays, sliding scales, DFS, CPS, counties, grants, policies, etc. were all new to me. But I soon became familiar to it, and making referrals and forwarding cases to different programs within the agency became quick and easier.

And working in a multicultural place is such a joy and it is so exciting to meet people from different corners of the world. Most of those who work here are immigrants, and it’s exciting to know different cultures. All the clients who come for services are mostly immigrants, and most of them don’t speak English at all. It’s a scary thought to come to America and not be able to speak the language. It makes me think that Pinoys are luckier because even though some don’t speak the perfect English, we still have more than a handful of English to survive. Most of the clients speak Spanish, Farsi, French, Arabic, Amharic, Vietnamese, among other languages.

The most challenging part of the job is the walk-in clients. They come in seeking services, sometimes accompanied by interpreters, sometimes they can fairly converse in English and some would need a staff to interpret for them. Having met them, I feel so thankful that even though Filipinos have a very chaotic and rough life, we didn’t have to experience what those people had been through. Filipinos still have a lot of things to be thankful about. It’s so sad to hear their stories about civil wars and all other difficulties they’ve been through. The agency offer many different programs for them- like counseling, legal services, social services and life skills programs. And having met these people from places like Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Congo, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Morocco, etc. has made me appreciate more the distinctness of world cultures. Also meeting people from Latin America has made me understand more contrasting personalities and cultural variety.

I love to be here. Friends teach you words and customs from their own countries. People share about their peculiar eating habits, or about food, marriage, raising children, unusual customs and practices. It’s always fascinating to hear those exchanges of interesting tales. The staff is a mélange of people from different cultures- Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Germany, Hungary, Ethiopia, Bosnia, Iran, Kenya, etc. etc. They blend well with the American staff. Well, there are those who are easy to get along with, and there are those who are such pain in the neck. Like I said, this place is a hodgepodge of different cultures and personalities. And in general, this is a great place to be.

I never thought I’d be able to meet people whose cultures I only read about in books. But I’m here, and it is a great experience. Being a volunteer here is such tremendous adventure. Doors and windows for greater opportunities and discernment has been opened for me…

1 comment:

Poll said...

Hello !!

Nice to meet you.