Who’s Helping Whom? A tale of finding unexpected opportunities, through volunteering.

Spoogler Play Date GroupThe idea of volunteering to contribu

te towards the greater good is nothing new.  I moved to the Bay Area last June when my husband accepted a position at Google and I needed something to do.  I had skills, and I would be doing an organization a favor by donating my time and education.  In the end, however, I was the one who had needed the help.  And those skills I was so proud of?  Irrelevant.

I was determined to find just the right fit.  I looked on volunteermatch.org for an organization’s request that interested me.  I dutifully selected filter options: Arts, Children, Environment, etc.; location; skills…and pushed enter.  Pages of results!  I perused the results only to feel disappointment. None of the opportunities made me excited. There was no good fit for me.

Between taking care of two kids, running the household and checking volunteermatch.org on a weekly basis, I discovered that Google did not have a spouse support group.  I was baffled and upset.  Outrageous!  How could this be?

At work, my husband was asked to fill out a survey gathering general household information.  I asked my husband for the contact info for the person sending out the survey.  I wanted to have a chat with them about spouse support.  We did chat, and a spouse support group was eventually the result: Spooglers.  I volunteer for Google?  This sounds ridiculous, but that is exactly what I do.

I help people settle into the Bay Area that have moved from faraway places to work at Google.  People who have left their family, friends, and comfort zones.  This is not something I planned on doing; this is something that happened after chasing an idea that kept me up at night.  I found myself talking incessantly to my husband about what was going on with Spooglers, all that had happened during my day and my plans for the rest of the week. I was excited.  I was setting my alarm to get up in the morning.  I was having coffee with new friends.  I was happier than I’d been in months.  I felt a purpose and drive that had been missing.

Whoa, wait.  I realized I had had it all wrong.  Yes, I was contributing to the greater good Spoogler Game Nightby donating my time and energy, but I was getting something unexpected out of it in return.  Volunteering was making California home.  So who was helping whom?

I had made volunteering too hard.  There is no perfect fit to be found by searching around the internet.  Anything that interests you will lead you to a place that makes a difference in a surprising way.  Some things to consider when searching for a volunteer opportunity:

  1. This is the perfect time to try new things.  Always wanted to try gardening?  Now’s your chance!
  2. Step back from the specific idea you have in mind and ask yourself where you would enjoy spending time.  For example, want to volunteer your coding skills?  Ask yourself what type of people you would like to interact with while doing so.  Animal lovers?  People passionate about the environment?  This will help guide you.
  3. Create your own opportunity.  Reach out to an organization you already identify with and let them know what you are looking for.
  4. It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just do something, anything.  You will start a chain of events that will take you to new places.

Make the Bay Area your home too!  Tell us about all the unexpected things you discover through volunteering.  We want to hear all about it!

Guest Blogger: Jessica

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