Volunteering takes its toll.

Oh geez, I know this is a sensationalized headline. It’s just that I couldn’t think of anything else so I figured I’d write something that may be a tad bit exaggerated and try to dampen it during this write up. I’m also realizing that when I had this idea to write this up yesterday, I was going on a lot less sleep the night before than usual and that could have been a big reason why I was feeling the way I did. I’m going to write what I was planning to write anyway though, especially because one of the main reasons I didn’t write it up last night is because my computer’s internet seemed to only work in thirty second spurts and I spent most of my night trying to calm myself down and talk myself out of throwing the laptop out of the window. Suffice to say I did not destroy my laptop. I was a bit upset though, and I didn’t want to strew profanity all over this family friendly blog. And again, I almost feel bad writing this because I sure felt a lot better today but I try to be transparent in my experiences so I might as well share what I gotta share. Throughout my time volunteering, I’ve loved it, I’ve loved working all the places, seeing the new faces, trying (and failing) to communicate, working with kids, and eating pie. I haven’t eaten a lot of pie but the pie I’ve had has always been good. I’ve seen people who complained about volunteering and I never wanted to be like those people. Especially because their complaints were dumb. “I don’t like kids?” You’re wrong. In doing this work, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t see myself working in a field that doesn’t let me interact with kids all the time. Which is great, I always thought I liked kids, it’s been nice to have that proven to me in actuality. This isn’t me complaining though. Maybe it is. This is me being a normal person who can’t be perfect all the time (contrary to what you may think about me.) Where I am now is the only placement I’ve had where I literally do think I could not do this for much longer than I am doing. I didn’t even think I’d be doing it as long as I am, I did think I would be done this week but I still have one more to go afterwards. As I’ve mentioned before, I work with the extremely physically and mentally disabled. 95% of the kids are in wheelchairs, probably only about 20% of them have any speech function, and about 25% of them can even feed themselves. It’s truly a depressing sight. At least the initial sight. Actually, it’s depressing and just gets more depressing the more you get to know the kids. Sure, I can’t communicate with them with my lack of French or Arabic but as I just mentioned, the majority are non communicative anyway. Still, you don’t need to be able to speak to see a kid flailing their arms in excitement or breaking into a giant smile when they see you to convey what you’re trying to say there. It’s been a common staple of the locations I’ve volunteered at have all had been children in unfortunate circumstances. The only difference with those other unfortunate situations is that there was always a glimmer of hope. A small glimmer, but a glimmer nonetheless. With these kids, it’s different. As I’ve probably mentioned before, they live and die here. However long that takes. They get the best care they possibly can receive but an underfunded establishment can only do so much. When over half the kids are all skin and bones, where you can easily feel their ribs and the outlines of their skulls, you really do wish there was a better way of feeding them than trying to force feed them mush. My only problem is that there’s only so much screaming I can take, or exposed bone I can stand to look at that happens to be exposed after a bed sore runs that deep. And that problem leads to another problem. A problem I did discuss with a friend last night that helped me deal with it a little better. The problem of feeling like an asshole. The problem of feeling guilty because you feel bad when these kids are in much worse shape than I’ll probably ever be, and the feeling of guilt that you can’t do anything. I come back sometimes and I’m like “Gosh, that was rough, I can only handle so much of that.” and then I think “Wow, these kids suffer or possibly suffer in their conditions every single day of their live without much hope for a successful future and I’m complaining about dealing with this for a few hours every day?” I wouldn’t say I’m complaining about dealing with it. Though that’s for you to judge. I’m saying that it starts to wear me down. That I know I couldn’t do it forever which is a thought that rarely ever penetrated my brain at the previous placements. The nurses and staff at the center are saints. Well, most of them are to say the least. I was going to make a separate blog post about that, but we’ll see what happens. That they’re every day smiling and working is a blessing to see. Not that I’m not smiling. Not trying to give off the impression that I’m not looking like a beaming light of joy to these kids. Of course I am, I do the best I can, I make them smile and they never see me in any mood other than ecstatic. Which I am, I’m happy to be there, I’m happy to help, I just know I can’t do it forever. And I know I can’t help them. I can’t give them the money to afford feeding tubes to make sure the kids eat. I can’t get them to hire a full time physical therapist to work on the kid’s mobility. I can just volunteer and smile and put a smile on their face or try my best. Even if they don’t know who I am, or don’t remember me, or don’t even know what’s going on in the world, I’m not going to stop trying. Just from time to time, you feel like a real dick when you have your own feelings that aren’t as happy as they should. I’m only human though? Maybe I’m a heartless cyborg. I hope not. I wish I could do more. I always wish I could do more wherever I end up going. Sometimes it just sucks when you can’t. So it goes.


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