Volunteering & working abroad – facing anxiety and doubts: Interview

An interview with C, who I connected with on the volunteer and work exchange site, Workaway, over the past several months, as she has undertaken her travels and work roles. I was curious to know what the experience of volunteering or short-term working, for the first time, in a new country, was like and how she met the challenges she faced, including anxiety.

Nov/Dec 2021

i) How have you found the experience of volunteering in a bed and breakfast in Scotland and what are your next plans?

I feel like I managed to unblock something, as if I was stuck in Belgium (my home country) and needed to get away from everything to actually function. Having seen that I indeed am capable of working, of sustaining myself, I feel empowered and strong. I of course have all my vulnerabilities still. But I feel a bit more sure of myself and my resilience. When I realised that, my dreams emerged again: study something at uni or college and build a life for myself.

I know I am not there yet, I still have a lot of work in front of me before I can think about going to university again. But to get to dreams you need to take small concrete steps. So the first step was accepting the job offer to work as a cleaner in a nice b&b. It will be a quite well paid job and I will be able to keep working on myself, while feeling like I am on top of things financially.

Maybe, who knows, I will be accepted into college in September 2022. Or I will choose another path for myself and decide to work and not focus on academics for a while, get an apartment, and work my way away, trying to live my life. And not survive it.

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Volunteering at West of England Falconry Centre

By Aspie Kid; https://aspiekidblog.wordpress.com/

Given that I am someone who has zero aspirations to go into veterinary sciences or to work with animals, it may seem slightly odd that I decided to volunteer at a falconry centre. But (generally) I do like animals and this seemed a reasonable opportunity to do some work experience. As an aspie, it initially seemed a daunting prospect, what with my social anxiety, but I’ve found that it’s been an incredibly supportive environment and has been incredibly enjoyable.

Continue reading “Volunteering at West of England Falconry Centre”

Reblogged: Getting Down with the Community

There is a strong desire amongst many people, including those with social anxiety, to participate in meaningful work through being active in community and activist groups, as well as other local organisations. For those who are able to overcome the barrier of social anxiety, doubts and/or time constraints, to attend a public meeting, lack of integration into the organisation can increase the likelihood of drop-outs and loss of participation from volunteers. A blog-post anecdote by one student, who describes herself as experiencing some social anxiety – as well as being “skeptical of everything political,” suggests that organisations can promote integration and participation, in the first instance, through offering meaningful personal and participatory inductions.

28 year-old West Carolina University (WCU) student, Nichole, found the people at a community activist group meeting, gathered to empower poor and working class people in North Carolina, comfortingly “normal.” Yet, she found herself alienated by the confrontational political tactics on discussion that day: “So as I was listening to these people talk about their plans to track down congressmen and women and ask them why they don’t care about poor people, I could feel all interest float away. Not to mention, the older man sitting to my left occasionally leaned down to express his hatred for the aforementioned congresspeople.”

A key factor, it would seem, in Nichole staying with the organisation after that initial contact is that she was invited to a one-to-one meeting with the organiser – which are designed to “understand what motivates people and what their stories are, and how we can help them, and how they can help us.” Nichole says that in the meeting she explained that, “…I wanted to make a difference and I didn’t know how, and that bird dogging was not for me at all. The organizer was quick to let me know that bird dogging was a small piece of what Down Home does, and that members are not required to do anything they don’t want to do. She talked to me about their current working groups and I decided to come to another meeting.”

Another key moment identified by Nichole in her blog post was when she was singled out during a team meeting focused on drug overdose prevention and education to express her point of view on a matter: “She asked what I thought, and I answered with a, “Well I think a lot of people might think…” and she looked me dead in the eye and asked, “But what do you think?” For the first time in my life I felt like my opinion mattered. It was valued. Someone wanted to hear what I had to say, and my words meant something.”

Coupled with Nichole’s “leap of faith” to attend the initial meetings despite her misgivings and social anxiety – and her interest in social justice, the personalised one-to-one and subsequent integration and participation enabled her “to know that my voice mattered and that it could make a difference.” She was able to break out of her sense of powerlessness and is now a community activist for life: “Even if I’m not a lifer, I can’t imagine not being a part of a group like this ever again.”

Read Nichole’s full blog-post on her website, ModeratelyUncomfortablesjw.wordpress.com

Moderately Uncomfortable

Down Home North Carolina (DHNC) has become an important part of my life. Even if I’m not a lifer, I can’t imagine not being a part of a group like this ever again. Down Home is a member-led organization that boasts the mantra “Building Power for the Working Class.” What does that mean? The organization’s goals are directed by community members. They went door to door and asked people what could make their lives better, and then developed goals to make things happen. Building power? Well us little people, the ones who aren’t billionaires and politicians, we have one thing that they don’t— us. We outnumber those people astronomically. The problem is we are not united and most of us are just trying to survive. We’re so busy working to meet our basic needs and often missing the mark, that we don’t have time to think about that. Down Home…

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